30, 1949, he was treated by his family physician for varicose veins of the leg which apparently had no connection with the rheumatic fever. He was gainfully employed almost continuously from February 22 and disability resulting from the accident ended by February 22, 1949, although there was some residual pain and discomfort. I find that the injury sustained by the libellant from the fall of the timber on August 18, 1948 and from the subsequent fall on crutches were the precipitating factors and the exciting causes of the disability resulting from rheumatic fever.
The libellant, for a period of weeks, suffered rather intense pain. The record is not wholly clear as to the extent of his suffering thereafter, although it appears he did suffer some pain and discomfort. He lost in excess of six months from work and the testimony discloses that his earnings were approximately $ 70 per week. In addition, there were medical bill of $ 53 to his family physician, and his employer expended in his behalf for medical and hospital attention the sum of $ 247.75. I find, therefore, that the libellant has sustained damages and is entitled to recover the sum of $ 3,300.
In this case the libellant had the burden of establishing (1) that the accident was caused by the negligence of the respondent, and (2) that there was a direct causal connection between the trauma and the disability from rheumatic fever. The libellant has sustained the burden of proving both elements and he is therefore entitled to recover damages.
The shipowner had the duty to provide the libellant with a reasonably safe place to work and it could not delegate that duty. There was evidence to show that there had been routine inspections by ship's personnel. There was also evidence to show that neither the libellant nor his co-employee Pedersen caused anything to come in contact with the structure and that the cause of the fall of the timber was normal vibration from the operation of the winches acting upon the improperly secured timber. While the structure was being dismantled it was discovered that other pieces of lumber were improperly secured and that condition constituted a menace to those working under or near the structure.
The libellant had the right to rely on respondent's observance of its duty to provide him with a reasonably safe place in which to work. Of course, he would be chargeable with notice of any defects which were apparent or which would have been disclosed by a casual inspection, but the evidence here is that the structure appeared to be in good condition and was a type commonly used on ships for the protection of stevedores against the sun and weather. The defect, the improperly secured boards and timber, was of the type which a reasonable inspection should have disclosed and the respondent was negligent in failing to discover and repair the condition, or in failing to disclose to the libellant the existence of the defective condition.
As to the causal connection between the trauma and the rheumatic fever, the problem is more difficult. The expert medical testimony was conflicting on the question of causal connection between the bumps which the libellant received on August 18 and August 23 and the subsequent disability from rheumatic fever. The libellant's medical expert testified positively that the blow to the left knee and the later fall on the right knee could be and were the precipitating factors and exciting causes of the rheumatic fever which libellant suffered thereafter. The respondent's medical experts testified that there was no connection and that the trauma here involved could not light up the condition of rheumatic fever. Respondent's medical testimony was that the chain of events was purely co-incidental.
After carefully considering both contentions, I am of the opinion that the weight of the evidence is clearly in favor of libellant's position. I am convinced by the testimony of libellant's medical expert that the bumps to the knees created a point of lowered resistance which subjected the joints to the infection of rheumatic fever which was characterized by both sides as a secondary infection.
Conclusions of Law.
1. The parties and the subject matter are within the jurisdiction of this Court.
2. Respondent as owner of a vessel in navigable waters was under a legal obligation to provide the libellant with a safe place to work, pursuant to the work order issued to his employer, or to warn him of the dangerous condition of the framework. Failure to do so constituted negligence and was the proximate cause of libellant's disability.
3. Judgment may be entered in favor of the libellant and against the respondent in the sum of $ 3,300.
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