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BUTLER v. UNITED STATES WAR SHIPPING ADMIN.

July 2, 1946

BUTLER
v.
UNITED STATES WAR SHIPPING ADMINISTRATION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WELSH

This is a suit in admiralty brought by Harry C. Butler, Chief Steward aboard the S.S. Olambala wherein wages deducted and withheld at the termination of the voyage because of an alleged shortage in the slop chest, wages for overtime, wages for four days subsequent to the termination of the voyage and double wages under R.S. § 4529, 46 U.S.C.A. § 596, are claimed. The cause was heard before the Court without a jury and the findings of fact, discussion and conclusions of law follow in order:

Findings of Fact.

 1. Libellant joined the S.S. 'Olambala' as Chief Steward on October 8, 1943, at the basic daily rate of $ 4.99 or 149.50 per month, plus bonuses, overtime and found.

 2. The vessel which was owned by the respondents and operated on their behalf by Norton-Lilly Management Corporation under a general agency agreement, was in command of Captain J. J. Folmer.

 3. Captain Folmer was charged with responsibility for the 'slop chest' and for any shortages in the 'slop chest' account.

 4. At the time Libellant joined the vessel, voyage No. 6 was already in progress, having commenced on September 23, 1943.

 5. Libellant had been preceded as Chief Steward by one Foo Chiang, who had joined the vessel on September 24, 1943, and who had signed off the articles on October 9, 1943.

 6. At the commencement of voyage No. 6, respondents had taken an inventory of the slop chest, and had entrusted the Master with custody of the slop chest. The Master, in turn, had delegated the job of making sales from the slop chest and keeping the slop chest account to Foo Chiang, who could neither read nor write English very well.

 7. When Libellant joined the vessel he obtained the keys to the slop chest from the second cook and baker and assumed the duties of the former Chief Steward. No inventory of the slop chest was taken by respondents at the time Foo Chiang signed off the articles or at the time Libellant joined her. Libellant did not at the time he joined the 'Olambala' or at any time subsequent to his joining agree to assume responsibility for any shortages in the slop chest.

 8. The Olambala proceeded on its voyage and arrived in Philadelphia on November 22, 1943. During the voyage, Libellant earned 132 hours overtime at one dollar per hour.

 9. Shortly after the Olambala arrived in Philadelphia, an inventory of the slop chest was taken by the respondents.

 10. On November 27, 1943, Libellant signed off the articles, but the Master refused to pay him his earned wages until it was determined whether or not there was a shortage in the slop chest account.

 11. At the time Libellant signed off the articles the Master did not know whether or not there was any such shortage, but knew that even if there was a shortage it must have occurred during Libellant's stewardship of the slop chest or that of his predecessor.

 12. At the Master's request, Libellant remained on duty on the vessel for four days beyond the termination of the articles, from November 27 to November 30, 1943, inclusive, until the steward's department was replaced ...


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