Appeals from orders of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Oct. T., 1963, No. 3105, and April T., 1963, No. 32, in cases of Evelyn Walker v. The Ohio River Company; Lyndell Wilson v. Same.
Harry Alan Sherman, with him S. Eldridge Sampliner, for appellants.
Harold R. Schmidt, with him Anthony J. Polito, and Rose, Houston, Cooper and Schmidt, for appellee.
Bell, C. J., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Eagen and O'Brien, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Musmanno.
We have here two separate appeals in two separate suits involving the same issue.
The two plaintiffs, Evelyn Walker and Lyndell Wilson, were both employees (seawomen) of the defendant company, each claiming that she sustained personal injuries while performing services in behalf of the defendant on a vessel owned by the defendant; their injuries having been caused by the defendant's negligence and unseaworthiness of the vessel involved.
Their separate complaints alleged a cause of action in trespass both under the Act of Congress known as the Merchant Marine Act (Title 46 U.S.C., Ch. 18, § 688) allowing an action for damages at law for personal
injuries and under the "Doctrine of Seaworthiness". Each complaint also alleged in a second count a claim under the maritime type of employment contract requiring the defendant to pay the plaintiffs' maintenance and cure for the past and into the future.
The plaintiff Lyndell Wilson in her complaint alleged she was injured on September 16, 1961, while an employee on a merchant marine vessel (M/V Bob Benter) plying the Ohio, moving upriver toward Pittsburgh, when the vessel was so negligently navigated that it jolted and jerked, causing her to slip, stumble and fall backwards while carrying a container of potatoes from the storeroom in the galley to the main deck via a flight of stairs, in pursuance of peremptory orders.
The plaintiff Evelyn Walker averred that she was injured as an employee on the defendant towboat, the "Robert P. Tibolt", as the vessel moved upboard on the Ohio from Cincinnati, the vessel suddenly lurching, impelling her to lose balance as she was lifting a 60-pound mattress, an operation usually performed by a man.
The defendant, the Ohio River Company, filed, in each action, preliminary objections, including, inter alia, a motion to dismiss, under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, which the court below granted. The plaintiffs appealed. In dismissing the Walker lawsuit the court pointed out that the plaintiff resides in Manchester, Ohio, some 70 miles from Cincinnati where the defendant has a place of business, that most of the shipboard witnesses are residents of Ohio, and that the plaintiff was hospitalized in Ohio although now obtaining further treatment in Pittsburgh. It then said that: "In view of the fact that service of process on ...