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WALKER v. SINCLAIR REF. CO.

September 2, 1971

Bobby F. WALKER
v.
SINCLAIR REFINING COMPANY


Vanartsdalen, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: VANARTSDALEN

VANARTSDALEN, District Judge.

 A seaman-plaintiff seeks damages for personal injuries sustained while employed by the defendant shipowner. Recovery is sought under maritime law for unseaworthiness and the Jones Act for negligence. The issue of liability was tried by the Court without a jury by agreement of counsel.

 Defendant's version is that there was a canteen near the edge of the beach, and while plaintiff was ashore on his free time, he and another seaman were sparring or jostling with each other, in a friendly way, near the doorway of the canteen. Plaintiff, in attempting to dodge a blow or thrust from his fellow seaman, stepped back and fell off the porch or step of the canteen to the ground, thereby sustaining his injuries.

 The Court, being the fact-finder, must therefore resolve these disputed issues. Most of the testimony, including that of plaintiff and of the eyewitness who claimed to see the scuffle between plaintiff and the fellow seaman, was presented by deposition. Plaintiff did, however, testify orally at the trial, briefly in his own behalf. Based on all of the evidence, the following findings of fact are made:

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. Plaintiff, a 41 year old merchant seaman, was injured on April 17, 1965, at the Port of Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, while serving as a member of the ship's crew of the S/S AMTANK.

 2. The ship, S/S AMTANK, was, on April 17, 1965, owned and operated by defendant, Sinclair Refining Company.

 3. Plaintiff's rating aboard ship was a fireman-watertender. He had been a member of the crew of the S/S AMTANK from February 1964 until February 1965, when he went on vacation. Approximately one week before plaintiff was injured, he rejoined the ship for a coastwise voyage to Guayanilla, Puerto Rico.

 4. The S/S AMTANK had no "slop chest" aboard. A slop chest is required for foreign, but not coastwise, passages. 46 U.S.C. § 670.

 5. About 9:00 A.M., April 15, 1965, the S/S AMTANK arrived at Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, to load on board a cargo of oil. Due to a local strike, the ship was unable to dock, as originally intended, and had to anchor. The following day on April 16, 1965, the ship received orders to sail to Punta Cardon, Venezuela.

 6. The original passage to Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, was a "coastwise" passage. The passage from Guayanilla, Puerto Rico to Punta Cardon, Venezuela, was a "foreign" passage. Before the ship's crew could sail, it was necessary for them to "sign-on" for foreign shipping articles before a United States Shipping Commissioner or his authorized representative.

 7. On April 16, 1965, a sailing board was posted aboard ship, advising the crew that the ship would sail at 18:00 hours on April 17, 1965, for Punta Cardon, Venezuela; and that the crew should "sign-on" for ...


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