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FAGAN v. UNITED STATES

February 26, 1952

FAGAN
v.
UNITED STATES



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CLARY

Sur Pleadings and Proof.

Upon the pleadings and proof I make the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 Findings of Fact.

 1. Plaintiff, Thomas R. Fagan, was duly appointed administrator of the Estate of Thomas Patrick Fagan, deceased, on March 14, 1947 on the Order of the Register of Wills of the County of Philadelphia, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

 2. Plaintiff's decedent, Thomas Patrick Fagan, was a citizen of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was employed as a taxi driver by Yellow Cab Company on March 6, 1947 and at the time of the incidents hereinafter related.

 3. At all times relevant hereto, the Philadelphia Naval Base, Pier 5 at that Base and the U.S.S. 'Macon' and U.S.S. 'Galveston', and appurtenances, were owned, operated, controlled and possessed by the United States.

 5. The means of access to the 'Galveston' was a large raised wooden platform or brow which was about twelve feet square, extending inshore from the side of the ship, with stairs leading from the pier to the platform. The bottom of a gangway from the vessel rested on this platform at a point several feet away from the side of the platform nearest the vessel and the water edge of the pier. To board the vessel from the pier, a person first climbed the stairs to the platform, then proceeded several feet over the platform to the bottom of the gangway and then climbed the gangway to the vessel.

 6. On March 6, 1947, plaintiff's decedent, while driving a taxi cab in the course of his employment, was requested to drive a passenger, Mason, to the Philadelphia Naval Base. He proceeded to the entrance of the Navy Yard and then drove his passenger to Pier 5.

 7. The decedent was unable to locate the U.S.S. 'Macon'. He stopped the taxi at Pier 5 and walked toward the U.S.S. 'Galveston' to obtain directions to the 'Macon'.

 8. The defendant's watchman, Schwartz, was standing at the head of the gangplank of the 'Galveston'. The decedent ascended the steps to the platform but before he could ascend the gangplank was stopped by the shouting of watchman Schwartz who told him not to come up the gangplank. The decedent then walked along the platform parallel to the gangplank and asked Schwartz as to the location of the U.S.S. 'Macon'. Watchman Schwartz pointed to Pier 4, the adjoining space, and the decedent, confused by the beams of a light hereinafter described and the shouting and actions of the watchman, walked along the platform toward the side of the vessel until he fell off the unguarded edge of the platform to a floating camel between the ship and the dock.

 9. While decedent had some impairment in his hearing, that impairment played no part in his fatal accident.

 10. The platform from which the decedent fell did not have any guard rail or life line on the side next to the water and the side of the ship. The safety regulations of the United States Navy require that there be toe holds, hand rails and life lines on such a platform and these safety requirements are so recognized as a standard in the shipbuilding industry. Prior to the time of this accident a rail and/or a life line had been present, but they had been removed.

 11. It was dark at the time of the accident and there were no lights on the platform itself. Light was furnished by a 300 watt cargo light and reflector at the head of the gangway on the ship, focused so that it shone directly into the ...


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