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CARROLL v. FRONTERA COMPANIA NAVIERA

September 16, 1966

William CARROLL
v.
FRONTERA COMPANIA NAVIERA, S.A. v. NACIREMA OPERATING CO., Inc.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BODY

 BODY, District Judge.

 The complaint in this action was filed on August 23, 1962 arising out of personal injuries allegedly sustained by the plaintiff, William Carroll, while he was engaged in the performance of his duties in discharging cargo aboard the SS BATIS on May 26, 1961.

 Plaintiff, a Philadelphia longshoreman employed by Nacirema Operating Co., Inc. ("Nacirema"), brought suit against the shipowner defendant, Frontera Compania Naviera, S.A. ("Frontera") basing his claims upon unseaworthiness and negligence. Frontera joined the stevedoring company Nacirema as a third-party defendant claiming indemnity. The cause was tried before this Court and a jury from March 9, 1966 to March 22, 1966.

 The trial judge submitted six special interrogatories to the jury at the conclusion of all the evidence and following the charge of the Court. None of the three counsel present noted any objection to these interrogatories. The jury responded to the interrogatories by finding:

 
(a) the SS BATIS was unseaworthy;
 
(b) Frontera was negligent;
 
(c) the unseaworthiness and negligence were proximiate causes of plaintiff's injuries;
 
(d) plaintiff was free from contributory negligence;
 
(e) Nacirema did not breach its warranty to Frontera;
 
(f) damages in favor of plaintiff in the sum of $120,000.

 A verdict was therefore entered in favor of the plaintiff and against Frontera in the amount of $120,000. In the third-party action the verdict was rendered in favor of Nacirema and against Frontera. Judgments were entered accordingly on March 22, 1966.

 The Court now has before it the motions of defendant Frontera to vacate the judgments against it, for judgment n.o.v., or in the alternative, for a new trial.

 At the time of the accident plaintiff was forty-seven years of age and was employed as a longshoreman in the capacity of a forklift operator. At the trial plaintiff's evidence established that he was operating a forklift or chisel truck in the lower hold of Frontera's vessel, the SS BATIS, as part of the operation of unloading packaged lumber at Pier 179 in Philadelphia. As plaintiff ran his forklift over a section of stowed packaged lumber, which appeared to him and other longshoremen to be a solid lumber floor, the two rear wheels of the truck suddenly broke through the top layer of the lumber. This caused the wheels to drop into a space or "void" between bundles of lumber stow over which he was operating. When the wheels crashed through the boards in such fashion, plaintiff's body was jerked sharply forward against the steering wheel and then thrown to the rear, resulting in severe injuries to his back.

 On the question of proper stowage, Nacirema contended, through its expert witness, Captain Anton Hopen, that any open space or void between the drafts of lumber should be filled in at the loading port before the top boards of adjacent drafts are butted together to form the floor. This enables the longshoremen at the port of discharge to rely on the floor's apparent solidity and to work without the ...


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