118 F.2d 690 (3rd Cir. 1941), 7517, Loverich v. Warner Co.

Docket Nº:7517, 7559.
Citation:118 F.2d 690
Case Date:March 17, 1941
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Page 690

118 F.2d 690 (3rd Cir. 1941)




Nos. 7517, 7559.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.

March 17, 1941

Writ of Certiorari Denied May 26, 1941.

See 61 S.Ct. 1104, 85 L.Ed.-- .

CLARK, Circuit Judge dissenting.

Page 691

Abraham E. Freedman, of Philadelphia, Pa. (Freedman & Goldstein, of Philadelphia, Pa., on the brief), for Loverich.

Samuel B. Fortenbaugh, Jr., of Philadelphia, Pa. (Shields, Clark, Brown & McCown, of Philadelphia, Pa., on the brief), for Warner Co.

Before MARIS, CLARK, and GOODRICH, Circuit Judges.

Page 692

GOODRICH, Circuit Judge.

This is an action in admiralty to recovery upon the obligation for maintenance and cure. 1 Each side has appealed; the libellant claims that the award was too limited; the respondent claims that no award at all should have been made.

The libellant, Frank B. Loverich, was in the employ of the respondent in 1925 and was the sole employee upon respondent's oil barge called '01'. According to his testimony he began to suffer hoarseness following a fire on the barge in 1926, during the extinguishment of which he was exposed to smoke and weather. The condition of his throat became serious and the hoarseness more aggravated. In June, 1933 he began to suffer from dizzy spells. He was examined by the physician employed by the company who found libellant suffering from advanced arteriosclerosis, chronic laryngitis, aphonia and left incomplete inguinal hernia. The physician recommended to the company that the man was a poor risk to work, 'especially around machinery or a boat, with extreme heat. ' Libellant was discharged on July 6, 1933. He was given a letter of recommendation setting forth his good character and long and faithful service and stating that he was obliged to leave only because of illness. That fall he was hospitalized in New York and was discharged after two months stay. Then he was employed by the Reading Company for fourteen months. He was again hospitalized for a few days and shortly thereafter secured another position which continued for about fifteen months. During this period his condition gradually became worse and both his voice and breathing were affected. In 1939 he entered the Philadelphia General Hospital for treatment and was operated on for a throat condition which was diagnosed as cancer. Rubber tubes were inserted in his throat to permit him to breathe and X-ray treatment continued following the operation. This therapy has relieved his condition somewhat.

The problem presented by this litigation is what, if any, is the obligation of the employer under the maritime law of maintenance and cure which, of course, really means maintenance and care. 2 The duty to make provision for maintenance and cure is imposed by the law and is 'annexed as an inseparable incident * * * ' to the relation of the parties. Cortes v. Baltimore Insular Line, Inc., 1932, 287 U.S. 367, 372, 53 S.Ct. 173, 174, 77 L.Ed. 368. The nature and extent of this obligation owed to the seaman has recently been discussed by this court in Calmar S. S. Corp. v. Taylor, 3 Cir., 1937, 92 F.2d 84, and by the Supreme Court in the same case, 1938, 303 U.S. 525, 58 S.Ct. 651, 82 L.Ed. 993. It is clear that the right of such maintenance is not restricted to those cases where the seaman's employment is the cause of the illness. It is now clear, also, that the obligation may continue after the termination of the voyage in which an injury is sustained or an illness begins. Those points are definitely settled by the decisions in the Calmar litigation.

If Loverich acquired this malignancy in the throat while employed as a seaman for the respondent then the duty of maintenance and cure arises even though it was not caused by anything incidental to his work. He did not seek to establish that the exposure to smoke and weather caused the throat cancer, although there was some medical testimony to the effect that such exposure could be a factor if there was a predisposition to that disease. Likewise, there was testimony that with this type of malignancy the patient could be active and around until it really 'took him off his feet'. There is a history of chronic laryngitis, improved once by treatment, but gradually becoming worse over the course of years. The company's physician suspected syphilis or cancer at the time of Loverich's discharge by the respondent. It was not until the time of the operation in the Philadelphia General Hospital that a biopsy gave the basis for the definite diagnosis of cancer. The testimony is sufficient to support the conclusion that the plaintiff's illness arose during his employment by respondent, but not that it was caused by such employment.

Then arises the question of the extent of the respondent's obligation, leaving out of consideration, for the moment, the fact that after the libellant was discharged by the respondent he worked for some time

Page 693

for two other employers. In the Calmar case the seaman was suffering from an incurable disease which was subject to amelioration by surgical treatment. The award approved in this court was a lump sum to defray the cost of meeting both past needs and anticipated future needs, based on his life expectancy. The award of the lump sum was reversed for three reasons: (1) The amount and character of medical care required in the future cannot be measured by mortality tables; (2) marine hospital services cut down the expense of treatment for the seaman; (3) the duty to safeguard a seaman 'from the danger of illness without succor, ' 3 and to guard him against improvidence is not met by the payment of a lump sum to cover expenses for medical attendance during life. The Court said that the limit of the duty, in the case where the incapacity is not caused by the employment, was its extent 'beyond a fair time after the voyage in which to effect such improvement in the seaman's condition as reasonably may be expected to result from nursing, care, and medical treatment'. 4 Under the decision in that case libellant here is entitled to an award for maintenance and cure for a reasonable period following the term of his employment unless payment by the respondent is relieved by the libellant's subsequent employment or laches.

What difference should it make in libellant's case because following the termination of his employment with respondent he worked successively for two other employers, assuming that during such period he was suffering from the disease originating during his employment by the respondent? Upon this point we find no help in the authorities. We believe, however, that while this is something of an extension of the liability imposed under the rule of the Calmar case, it is justified by the fundamental principles upon which the obligation for maintenance and cure is bottomed. It is to be noted that this man did not voluntarily leave the respondent's employment. He was dismissed on a recommendation of the company's physician who advised the company that he was a poor risk. The physician admitted on cross-examination that upon his examination of the libellant he thought he had syphilis or cancer from the chronic laryngitis. There is no evidence of syphilis. No examination was made to ascertain whether cancer was present and the man was turned out. If he was already suffering from cancer in one of its developing stages he could hardly look to subsequent employers for the performance of this obligation. We do not see how his own self-reliance in keeping going as long as he could should preclude his recovery against this respondent.

The last question is whether all, or any part of libellant's claim, is barred by laches. This case was started in October of 1939. The libellant was discharged from respondent's...

To continue reading