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MCGRODER v. MOORE-MCCORMACK LINES

May 19, 1969

Joseph W. McGRODER
v.
MOORE-McCORMACK LINES, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LORD, III

 JOSEPH S. LORD, III, District Judge.

 I.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 Plaintiff, Joseph W. McGroder, was a seaman and on or about July 26, 1965 signed on the SS MORMACCOVE as an ordinary seaman. His duties consisted of two hours of steering, two hours maintenance during the day, and two hours steering, one hour lookout and one hour standby during the night.

 On or about August 10, 1965, at about 11:00 p.m. the plaintiff left the messroom and proceeded to the main deck on the starboard side. His intention was to proceed across the foredeck to the fo'c'sle head in order to stand watch. The night was dark and wet. There was a normal sea but the deck was wet from the moisture in the atmosphere. Deck cargo was stowed on the foredeck to a height of approximately four feet. The stowage began just aft of the aftercoaming of the No. 1 hatch and extended to about the aftercoaming of the No. 3 hatch.

 A catwalk had been erected over the deck cargo on the starboard side, access to which was provided by a wooden ladder at the aft end of the catwalk. The catwalk was composed of 2 x 4's and 2 x 10's; it was approximately 3 feet wide, constructed of new lumber with handrails on each side. At the forward end of the stow there was no ladder, but instead a ramp, with 2 x 4's for cleats, which extended from the top of the stow to the deck. This ramp was not provided with handrails and was wet from the moisture in the air. It was the only way available to descend from the top of the stow to the deck.

 As plaintiff stepped on the ramp his foot went from under him. He was unable to catch himself and he fell to the starboard side of the stow landing on the main deck between the bulwark and the ramp. Plaintiff was watching where he was going, was walking carefully, but there was nothing he could have done to avoid the accident once he slipped on the wet deck and was confronted with an absence of hand rails.

 Plaintiff struck his head on a stanchion, his body and buttocks hit the bulwark, his left shin was bleeding, he had a cut over the right eye and bruises on his buttocks. He finally came to rest on his chest. Following the accident the plaintiff went to the Chief Mate, where his leg and eye were bandaged and he was given pills for pain. He knocked off watch, went to bed and was off duty for a few days.

 After the plaintiff resumed his watches he continued to have pain in the lower back. At Rotterdam the plaintiff was given light duty by the company doctor.

 Plaintiff continued to work but his back bothered him continuously. The pain increased and began to run down the back of the left leg into his toes. His leg pained and his foot became numb. This intensification and radiation of pain began about three weeks after the accident. When the vessel arrived in New York plaintiff received a Master's Certificate for the U.S. Public Health Service which he visited in New York. He was referred to Philadelphia and by Philadelphia to the Marine Hospital in Baltimore. He was hospitalized there from September 23 to October 12, 1965. He was given a bed board and pain killers and x-rays were taken.

 After his discharge plaintiff returned as an outpatient from November 9 to December 9, 1965, when he was given a fit-for-duty slip. He had, however, the same complaints and did not return to duty on the advice of the Public Health doctor.

 Plaintiff obtained employment with Publicker Industries where he worked from October 10 to November 10, 1965, earning a total of $179.05.

 Following November of 1965 plaintiff was unable to work until he returned to sea in April of 1966 aboard the SS EXPORT CHALLENGER. In July, 1966, a doctor in Aden advised plaintiff he should not go to sea because of his back. Plaintiff's next ship was the SS DEFENDER, upon which he shipped as an able-bodied seaman. However, because of his ...


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