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THOMPSON v. TRENT MARITIME CO.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


October 4, 1963

James THOMPSON
v.
TRENT MARITIME CO., Ltd. v. B. H. SOBELMAN & CO., Inc.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: WOOD

James Thompson, a longshoreman, sustained fractures to his right foot while working in the wing of the S.S. Duke of Athens berthed at Pier 98, North, here at the Port of Philadelphia, on February 27, 1953. In addition to this injury, Mr. Thompson suffered a later unrelated injury to his left leg in 1957, which resulted in its amputation.

The right foot injury is the subject matter of the instant action. This injury occurred when a draft of several bales was being pulled from the forward port pocket aft, into the square of the hatch, when suddenly, a piece of dunnage coming from between the bales catapulted into the wing where Thompson and other longshoremen were standing. Thompson was injured about 2:00 p.m. and continued to work until 3:30 p.m. when the discharge operation was completed.

 The jury rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant in the amount of $ 22,500 and found in favor of the third-party defendant in the indemnity action.

 Post-trial motions have been filed by the defendant to set aside the judgments in favor of the plaintiff and the third-party defendant, and for new trials in each action.

 ORIGINAL ACTION

 We conclude that the evidence supported a finding for the plaintiff and the only question to be considered is the amount of the verdict.

 This plaintiff was a man of 43 years of age who worked alternately as a floor layer and longshoreman both before and after this accident. During the week following the injury he was treated for fractures of the second, third and fourth metatarsal bones; X-rays were taken, and a cast was applied. He was never hospitalized and his disability covered a period of approximately seven weeks from February 27 to April 20, 1953. At the end of his convalescence on April 20, 1953, the plaintiff returned to his longshoreman's work and earned more at that job during the ensuing six months' period than at any time before or since. His average earnings were $ 70 per week. His loss of earnings, liberally calculated for his 51 days of disability, amounts to $ 560. His medical expense was $ 100.50. His total special damages amounted to $ 660.50. Measured in terms of these damages, the verdict is more than 35 times their amount.

 As to pain and suffering, there is very little evidence of any substantial discomfort caused by this injury to the plaintiff. There was testimony by the plaintiff's physician who saw him for the first time on June 14, 1955, which was over two years after the accident, that pain was only a minor complaint (N.T. 105, 128). After he went back to work on April 20, 1953, less than two months after the injury, he never sought nor received any medical attention for his injury to his right foot. His only complaint was that he experienced some pain when he worked on an irregular surface. The severity of this pain is not expressed in the record.

 As to future pain and suffering, there was some medical testimony that an arthritic condition developed in the area of the foot injury subsequent to 1953. The medical testimony was extremely modest as to whether this condition caused any pain at all an whether or not it was even a disabling injury. The speculative nature of this evidence was borne out by the plaintiff's continued ability to work at his usual tasks in the four years following the accident before he lost his left leg in 1957. The plaintiff's earning power was not appreciably affected by this injury as can be readily seen from the following breakdown of his earnings: Year Flooring Stevedoring Total 1953 $ 2,200.00 $ 1,675.00 $ 3,875.00 1954 2,720.00 964.00 3,684.00 1955 2,686.00 None 2,686.00 1956 3,616.00 None 3,616.00 1957 1,300.00 60 hours 1,300.00

19631004

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