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PAUL v. UNITED STATES

November 21, 1951

PAUL
v.
UNITED STATES et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CLARY

This is an action by a seaman to recover damages for person injuries sustained by him allegedly from the negligence of the respondent, United States of America. The facts have been stipulated between the parties and I am called upon to decide the issues on the basis of the following

Stipulation of Facts

 1. United States of America owned and operated the Steamship William Moultrie at all times material hereto.

 2. Libellant was forty years of age on May 14, 1946, and has been a merchant seaman for over twenty years.

 3. Libellant joined the Steamship William Moultrie on March 19, 1946 as Chief Engineer and was paid off and discharged at Norfolk, Va. on June 11, 1946. During his period of service on board said vessel, his gross earnings were $ 1,278.20 in wages, including a bonus of $ 70.

 4. The Steamship William Moultrie sailed from Philadelphia on April 18, 1946 and arrived at the Port of Brindisi, Italy in the morning of May 6, 1946. The vessel was moored at a long dock which was constructed parallel to the shore line and did not extend out into the water. A railroad track ran the length of the dock, and alongside this track and parallel to it was a cement walkway. The cement walkway was accessible via three or four steps. It was above the level of the said track to the extent of the height of said steps.

 5. The cement walkway on which libellant was walking on the occasion of his injury was about six or seven feet wide and several hundred feet long. It had no railings, and was sheltered by a V-shaped roof. There were no lights on the walkway.

 6. On May 7, 1946, the dock at which the Steamship William Moultrie was moored was owned by the Italian Government, and both the said dock and the Port of Brindisi were under British Military control.

 7. Libellant had been ashore in Brindisi the day before, in the daylight, on which occasion he elected to walk along the railroad track rather than use the cement walkway.

 8. On the evening of May 7, 1946, the Port of Brindisi, Italy, was not blacked out and another American ship, the Steamship William Halstad, besides the Steamship William Moultrie was moored alongside the same dock, which was several ships' length in extent. (Lloyd's Register of Shipping states that the Steamship William Moultrie was 422 feet in length)

 9. On May 7, 1946, after dark, libellant left the Steamship William Moultrie via the gangway, mounted to the walkway, and walked along it parallel to the railroad track until he reached a point about 100 feet beyond the bow of the Steamship William Moultrie, when he fell into an unguarded and unlighted hole which he did not see, and the presence of which he had been given no notice by the ship's officers or crew. This hole was about 2 1/2 feet square and 4 1/2 feet deep; it was permanent part of the dock structure. It contained shunting gear used in the operation of the railroad track. The foregoing conditions existed when the Steamship William Moultrie docked on the morning of May 6, 1946, and continued until the evening of May 7, 1946 when libellant was injured.

 10. As a result of his accident on May 7, 1946, libellant sustained a contusion of the right knee and an aggravation of a pre-existing arthritic condition.

 11. Libellant received first-aid treatment aboard the vessel, at an English Army Dispensary in Brindisi, Italy, and at Trieste, Italy.

 12. Libellant was a patient at the United States Marine Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland from August 28, 1946 to September 5, 1946, and received out-patient treatment at the United States Public Health Service in Philadelphia, ...


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