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GIBSON v. UNITED STATES

October 31, 1951

GIBSON
v.
UNITED STATES



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KALODNER

The question presented is whether a member of a ship's crew is entitled to maintenance and cure for periods of unemployment while recuperating from a heart attack which he suffered while in the service of the vessel.

This libel in personam was brought against the United States pursuant to the Suits in Admiralty Act, 46 U.S.C.A. § 741 et seq. As originally drafted, it set out two causes of action, one for indemnity and one for maintenance and cure. The cause of action for indemnity is based upon respondent's negligence and will be disposed of separately. This opinion will deal only with the question of maintenance and cure.

 I find the pertinent facts as follows:

 1. At the time material hereto, the S.S. Ernest W. Gibson was owned by the respondent, the United States, and operated by International Freighting Corp., Inc., under a standard form general agency agreement.

 2. Libellant, Arthur W. Gibson, was employed by respondent aboard The Ernest W. Gibson as second assistant engineer on a voyage which commenced at Baltimore in January, 1946.

 4. Libellant was taken ashore on March 18, 1946, and confined in the U.S. Naval Hospital at Key West, Florida, until May 31, 1946, when he returned to his home in Woodlynn, New Jersey. Thereafter he received outpatient care at U.S. Public Health Service in Philadelphia, and on two occasions in 1946 was a patient in the U.S. Marine Hospital at Baltimore for purposes of re-examination.

 5. From April 15, 1947, until the date of trial, libellant has been under the continuous care of Dr. Ernest E. Manser, a heart specialist attached to the Cooper Hospital at Camden, New Jersey.

 6. Libellant's treatment at the hands of Dr. Manser has consisted of sedatives and other medication designed to relieve him of chest pains and other discomforts which he experienced during this period. As a result of this medication his pains were reduced in number and intensity. However, there has been little noticeable physiological improvement in the damaged heart tissue since shortly after the occlusion occurred.

 7. Libellant first returned to work some time in the latter part of 1947. At that time he worked for a newspaper, The Pennsylvania Banker, for not less than three days. His next employment was for a period of sixty days (August 8 to October 6, 1950) as a clerk in a Philadelphia hotel. He then worked for ninety-three days (November 18, 1950 to February 18, 1951) as a telephone operator at the Cooper Hospital.

 8. On the evening of February 18, 1951, he was taken sick while working at the Cooper Hospital and was confined there for not more than two days.

 9. On March 25, 1951, libellant was re-employed by The Pennsylvania Banker, and was there employed at the time of trial.

 10. Libellant was paid maintenance at the rate of $ 5 per day from the date of his release from Key West Naval Hospital, up to and including May 26, 1947. He also received his transportation expenses from Key West to Baltimore (the port of signing on), and wages to March 27, 1946 (the end of the voyage on which he was taken ill).

 11. The parties have stipulated that any maintenance and cure to which libellant is entitled shall be paid at the rate of $ 5 per day up until June ...


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