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MADSEN v. UNITED STATES

June 30, 1960

Knud H. MADSEN, Libelant
v.
UNITED STATES of America, Respondent, v. DUMAC SHIP CEILING CO., John F. Dugan, Leo Morris and John F. McNamara, Respondents-impleaded



The opinion of the court was delivered by: EGAN

This libel in personam was brought against the United States pursuant to the Suits in Admiralty Act, 46 U.S.C. § 742. Libelant was a relief night mate working the midnight to 8 A.M. watch on respondent's ship, the James J. Hill, who was injured by being thrown from a ladder while reporting off duty at 7:55 A.M. on the morning of June 5, 1957. He seeks to recover damages alleging (1) that the vessel was unseaworthy; (2) negligence under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 688; and (3) for maintenance and cure. United States impleaded Dumac Ship Ceiling Co., a partnership composed of John F. Dugan, Leo Morris and John F. McNamara, collectively referred to herein as DUMAC.

The cause having been submitted to the Court on the basis of pleadings, testimony, depositions and exhibits, and oral argument having been waived, we make the following

 Findings of Fact.

 1. Libelant, Knud H. Madsen, at all times material hereto, was employed as a night relief mate aboard the James J. Hill, owned by the United States.

 2. The James J. Hill was a Liberty type vessel owned by the Government which in May of 1957, while anchored in the James River Reserve Fleet, above Norfolk, Virginia, was being used for the storage of Government-owned grain. She had been decommissioned and was classified as a 'dead' ship in the 'Mothball Fleet.'

 3. In May, 1957, respondent appointed a licensed master of vessels to take charge of the James J. Hill, supplying him with a six man riding crew, all of whom were licensed mariners, for the purpose of towing the vessel from the James River to the Port of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for discharge of her cargo at the Girard Point Grain Terminal.

 4. Before undertaking the contemplated voyage on May 29, 1957, the master inspected the vessel to satisfy himself that she was seaworthy. During the course of the voyage, the master kept the usual log required of vessels in navigation; the vessel was subject to the rules of the nautical road; the vessel displayed the required lights; she was moved by tugs during the course of the voyage from the James River to Philadelphia since she had no power of her own.

 5. When the vessel was moored in navigable waters at Girard Point on June 2, 1957, the master remained aboard during working hours, from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M., to supervise her discharge. Respondent supplied the master with four ship cleaners and a ship cleaning foreman, and four deck men and a deck foreman to assist the master in seeing that the holds of the vessel were properly cleaned after discharge and that the vessel was properly moored during business hours while she was tied up at Girard Point.

 6. After business hours, i.e. during nonworking hours, respondent employed two teams of night mates and gangway watchmen aboard the vessel to safeguard her. The first team, whose names are unimportant, took the watch from 4 P.M. to 12 midnight; the second team, of which Madsen was the night mate, took over from 12 midnight to 8 A.M. It was during this watch that the accident happened. Both Madsen and the gangway watchman who attended him were placed aboard the James J. Hill by respondent's agent, Shepard Steamship Company, acting through its local agent, the Hinkins Steamship Company.

 8. The James J. Hill carried in her 'tween deck the regular accommodation ladder with which she was originally equipped, and in addition thereto, she was equipped with a common painter's ladder about 35 feet high, which she utilized for the purpose of providing ingress and egress for persons having business aboard her while at Girard Point.

 9. While not new, the ladder was not defective and was reasonably safe for the use to which it had been put. It was secured at the top by a lashing at the gunnel and rested on its bottom in cinders on the dock. The vessel was moored with two bow lines, two spring lines and two stern lines, the latter being each of 8' manila. The inboard bow and stern lines and the two spring lines were each about 60 feet long. The outboard bow and stern lines were each about 120 feet long.

 10. All of the ship's lines were permitted to have slack in them and were permitted to fall into the water; the movement of tides and traffic passing in the river caused the vessel to surge to and fro along the dock and to float out from the dock in uneven movements.

 11. During working hours from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M., the vessel was adequately manned because in addition to the five cleaners and five deck men on the vessel under the command of the master, there was a gang of twelve stevedores, furnished by Dumac, including a stevedore foreman and a stevedore supervisor.

 12. The vessel was not adequately manned from 5 P.M. to 8 A.M. each day because the respondent supplied her solely with a night relief mate and a gangway watchman. The night relief mate was physically unable to handle the lines by himself or with the combined efforts of the gangway watchman. Besides, union regulations would not permit them to handle the mooring lines.

 13. Every morning when the working crew reported for the purpose of discharging the vessel of its cargo of grain, they found that the ship had worked herself away from the dock and it was necessary to bring her back to the dock by tightening her slack lines before undertaking the day's operations.

 14. On June 5, 1957, at approximately 7:55 A.M., the libelant, Madsen, was leaving the vessel after the completion of his eight-hour duty as night relief mate. He mounted the straight ladder to descend to the pier and successfully maneuvered several rungs, at which point the vessel suddenly surged forward about 5 to 8 feet, causing the ladder to upend and throw the libelant ...


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