did not respond since they were also unable to arouse Suvagian, who was sleeping in the same room, though they used the same methods on him. Jones stated that both men smelled of liquor, from which he concluded that they were 'passed out drunk'.
Flax' story is somewhat different. He stated that he went to Vervaecke's room about 2 A.M., not with Jones but with the second engineer, to see whether Vervaecke's injured hand had been X-rayed while he was ashore. He stated that he tried to wake him, and, when he didn't respond, decided to leave the matter go until morning. In response to a question by libellant's counsel he stated that if he had been advised that Vervaecke had fallen, he would have summoned a doctor at that time. He denied seeing or speaking to Jones between the time he returned to the ship and the time he went to bed. It is libellant's contention that since Flax, the officer most qualified to decide whether a doctor would be needed, was on board immediately following the accident, the other officers were negligent in failing to report the incident to him.
There is no merit to this contention. I have found that Flax' decision to 'let it go till morning' was made after learning of the fall from Jones. I had little hesitancy in rejecting Flax' denial that he spoke to Jones before going to Vervaecke's room. Flax signed a statement the day after the accident which included the words 'As I started below I met the second mate and together we went into his (Vervaecke's) cabin. * * *' When he was confronted with this statement on cross-examination, he couldn't remember who the second mate was at the time of the accident, then conceded that it was 'possible' that it might have been Jones. Weighing this testimony against Jones' unequivocal assertion that the two of them conducted the examination together, I have little doubt as to who was telling the truth. Furthermore, the contradictory effect of the signed statement on Flax' denial of any conversation with Jones, in addition to his failure in general to give straightforward answers on cross-examination, renders his entire deposition unreliable. Accordingly, I have given very little weight to anything else he may have said therein.
Accepting Jones' deposition as the correct version of the examination made by the purser and himself, did these two officers, any more than the chief mate, have reason to be alarmed at Vervaecke's condition? I find that they did not. Jones had been told that Vervaecke had fallen 'right at the bottom of the gangway'; he had no reason to suspect that such a fall would produce severe injuries. He went with the purser, who was the officer primarily responsible for the medical care of the ship's personnel, to Vervaecke's room. The two officers found both Vervaecke and his roommate breathing heavily and smelling of alcohol. Neither man would respond to vigorous attempts to awaken him, from which it was concluded that both were heavily intoxicated. As brought out on cross-examination of Dr. Gouley, the coroner's physician, it is not a rare occurrence, even in hospitals, for a subdural hemorrhage to be mistaken for a simple case of intoxication.
It is not usual to call in a physician for every case of intoxication that is accompanied by a fall. The normal reaction of a reasonable person, when an individual is found as drunk as Vervaecke was, is to let him 'sleep it off', and that is exactly what was done here.
Unfortunately, the decision to let Vervaecke 'sleep it off' turned out to have tragic consequences; but that in itself does not mean that it was made frivolously. Under all the circumstances of this case, I cannot find that it was an unreasonable decision, or that the conduct of the ship's officers in making it amounted to negligence. See Potter Title & Trust Co. v. Ohio Barge Line, supra.
Accordingly, I state the following
Conclusions of Law.
1. Libellant has failed to sustain the burden of proof in his attempt to establish that the fall suffered by Alvin R. Vervaecke from the ladder leading to the deck of the S. S. George Vickers was caused by respondent's negligence in any respect.
2. There was no negligence or dereliction of duty on the part of the officers of the S.S. George Vickers in failing to provide Vervaecke with medical treatment after learning that he had fallen.
3. The officers of the S.S. George Vickers had reasonable grounds to conclude that Vervaecke was merely intoxicated and that he did not require medical attention.
4. The cause of action against the United States of America and the United States Maritime Commission should be dismissed.
An order may be submitted in accordance herewith.