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LANDY v. UNITED STATES

December 11, 1951

LANDY
v.
UNITED STATES et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KALODNER

This libel in personam was brought against the United States pursuant to the Suits in Admiralty Act, 46 U.S.C.A. § 742. Libelant is the administrator of the estate of a deceased seaman. He is seeking to assert a cause of action under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C.A. § 688, *fn1" alleging that his decedent's death was caused by respondent's negligence in: (1) failing to provide a safe means of ingress to the vessel; and (2) failing to provide the decedent with prompt and adequate medical care and attention.

The cause having been submitted to the court on the basis of the pleadings, depositions, additional testimony and exhibits, I make the following

 Findings of Fact

 1. Libellant, Samuel H. Landy, was appointed administrator of the estate of Alvin R. Vervaecke, deceased, on October 3, 1946, by the Register of Wills of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

 2. At all times material hereto the decedent, Alvin R. Vervaecke, was employed in the capacity of able-bodied seaman on board the S.S. George Vickers.

 3. At all times material hereto the S.S. George Vickers was owned by respondent, the United States of America, and operated by T. J. Stevenson & Co., Inc., under an agreement of general agency.

 4. On February 12 and 13, 1946, the S.S. George Vickers was moored at Pier 80, South, in the city of Philadelphia, having been moved there from a berth at Port Richmond, Philadelphia.

 5. On the afternoon and evening of February 12, the decedent went ashore on liberty on two occasions. On the first occasion he was accompanied by Gulbank Suvagian, an ordinary seaman; on the second occasion he was accompanied by Suvagian and a messman named Johnson. During these two trips ashore he consumed a considerable quantity of liquor. On the first of the two trips ashore he was engaged in a scuffle with an unidentified seaman and as a result of a fall on the pavement, suffered a bloody face.

 6. Vervaecke, Suvagian and Johnson returned to the S.S. George Vickers at approximately 12:30 A.M. on the morning of February 13.

 7. At that time the only available means of ingress to the vessel was a straight wooden painter's ladder, which extended from the edge of the pier to the ship's rail, just aft of the midship housing. The ladder was inclined at an angle of about sixty degrees with the horizontal. The vessel was light, and the ladder was secured in such a manner as to allow for the movement of the ship away from the pier. The area about the ladder was well lighted. The ladder had round wooden rungs, spaced approximately one foot apart. Some of these wooden rungs had been replaced with round pipe rungs, which were about one inch in diameter. These pipe rungs fit loosely into the sockets of the two uprights of the ladder. The vessel was also equipped with a standard accommodation gangway which had steps, stanchions and hand holds; this gangway was not in use at the time.

 8. When the three men arrived at the ship, Suvagian started up the ladder, followed by Vervaecke, with Johnson in the rear.

 9. While Suvagian and Vervaecke were both on the ladder, Vervaecke fell over backwards from a height of some four feet. He landed on his back on the ground and was rendered unconscious by the fall.

 10. Suvagian descended the ladder and conferred with Johnson, then went up on deck and lowered a cargo net by means of the cargo winch. Vervaecke was placed in the net and hoisted aboard. He was then put to bed by Johnson and Suvagian, assisted by Peverill, the night watchman, who had been attracted to the scene by the sound of the winch.

 11. A short time after Vervaecke was put in his bunk, Pavia, the Chief Mate, returned to the vessel and was informed of the incident by the night watchman. This was about 1 A.M. Pavia went to Vervaecke's room, examined him for broken bones and observed his breathing. He instructed ...


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