I have before me defendant's motion for a directed verdict pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a). I have considered the arguments of counsel carefully, the submissions of counsel, and I have also reviewed the statute and the cases, and I conclude that the motion should be granted.
The central questions are (1) whether the vessel's responsibilities regarding stowed cargo differ from the responsibilities regarding the ship itself, its equipment and work space; and (2) if the vessel's responsibilities do differ, how so?
The factual evidence in the case is fairly simple. On May 17, 1983, the plaintiff was employed as a longshoreman by the Delaware Operating Company, an independent stevedoring contractor. Delaware Operating Company had been hired by the defendant to discharge cargo from the M/V Georgia Rainbow in the Port of Philadelphia. Plaintiff was a member of the longshore gang that was assigned to discharge cargo of steel products, including steel wire coils, from the No. 1 hatch.
Plaintiff was injured shortly after he entered the hold at 8:00 o'clock a.m. He was down among the coils, either preparing to start work or having just begun, when one of the coils fell from the top of the stow, striking him in the neck and back, and injuring him. The plaintiff contends that the steel coil was improperly stowed and was unstable and that it was either not lashed at all, or it was improperly lashed. As a result, the plaintiff claims that the vessel's owner was negligent in causing or permitting the steel wire coils to be improperly stowed and in failing to warn the plaintiff of the unsafe condition of the stow before the plaintiff entered the hold. While the plaintiff presented evidence that the vessel did a cursory visual inspection of the cargo before the commencement of discharge operations, there is no evidence that defendant had actual knowledge of any unreasonable hazard presented by the cargo.
Plaintiff brought this lawsuit under section 5(b) of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. § 905(b). The statute provides in part as follows:
In the event of injury to a person covered under this chapter caused by the negligence of the vessel, then such person, or anyone else otherwise entitled to recover damages by reason thereof, may bring an action against the vessel.