personnel working on the "Butterworth" pump. (N.T. 1-63, 69.) The Sun Ship employees could only state that they saw members of the ship's crew "standing" in the area of the accident. (N.T. 2-75.) The two witnesses were unable to testify that they saw members of the crew working in or around the area in question. When asked by counsel for the plaintiff whether he noticed what members of the ship's crew were doing immediately before the accident, one of the Sun Ship employees (J. B. Jones) answered, "No, I don't. I didn't take notice. They were just back there." (N.T. 2-50.)
With respect to the issue of who removed the piece of deck plate -- whether members of the crew or Sun Ship employees -- the fact that members of the ship's crew were merely present in the lower engine room prior to the accident is of little evidentiary value alone on a determination of the issue as to who removed the plate. The evidence showed that at one point or another there was in excess of ten different work departments and as many as 75 employees of Sun Ship actively engaged in the repair and overhaul of the vessel's propulsion system. Sun Ship employees worked 24 hours a day for approximately one month and were working in the lower engine room at the time of the plaintiff's accident. In light of the presence of Sun Ship workers in the lower engine room, the jury was forced to speculate as to who actually removed the section of deck plate. The mere possibility that the plate had been removed by members of the ship's crew cannot properly support a verdict of liability against the ship, particularly in view of the relatively strong possibility that the plate had been removed by Sun Ship employees in connection with the repairs performed on the vessel's main propulsion system.
Nor does the lack of a work order for the "Butterworth" pump, coupled with the presence of crew members in and about the lower engine room, constitute sufficient evidence from which the jury could reasonably infer that the section of deck plate was removed by members of the crew. The pump was not mechanically or physically connected with the deck plate. The aperture in the floor caused by the removal of the plate was simply in the near vicinity of the pump. That the crew of the ship removed and failed to replace the deck plate cannot validly be deduced from the fact that Sun Ship work orders did not reflect repairs to the "Butterworth" pump. The fact that Sun Ship personnel did not work on the pump has no evidentiary significance with respect to the question of who removed the deck plate.
The law is well settled that in ruling upon a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict the trial court, without considering the credibility of the witnesses, must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the verdict winner. Thomas v. E. J. Korvette, Inc., 476 F.2d 471 (3rd Cir. 1973); Meyer v. Bankers Dispatch Corporation, 471 F.2d 1290 (8th Cir. 1973). Nevertheless, if upon review of the record the verdict is not supported by legally sufficient evidence, the moving party is entitled to judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Urti v. Transport Commercial Corporation, 479 F.2d 766, 768 (5th Cir. 1973); Neidlinger v. Victory Carriers, Inc., 365 F. Supp. 1376 (E.D. Pa. 1973). Legally sufficient evidence has been defined as substantial evidence, that is, "evidence of such quality and weight that reasonable and fair-minded men in the exercise of impartial judgment might reach different conclusions." Boeing Company v. Shipman, 411 F.2d 365, 374 (5th Cir. 1969). While liability may be established by circumstantial evidence and inferences reasonably deducible therefrom, there must be sufficient facts in evidence from which the jury could reasonably and logically reach the conclusion sought by the plaintiff. In the instant case, plaintiff introduced no direct evidence regarding the removal of the section of deck plate; nor could the jury reasonably and logically infer from the evidence that members of the ship's crew removed and failed to replace the missing plate. In that a verdict based on mere speculation or conjecture cannot stand, defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict will be granted. See, Radiation Dynamics, Inc. v. Goldmuntz, 464 F.2d 876 (2nd Cir. 1972); Smith v. Bell Telephone Co. of Pa., 397 Pa. 134, 153 A.2d 477 (1959).
AND NOW, TO WIT, this 12th day of May, 1975, upon consideration of defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new trial, following hearing on the motion and upon careful review of the entire record of this case, IT IS ORDERED that the defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict is granted.
LOUIS C. BECHTLE, J.