241 F.Supp. 748 (W.D.La. 1963), Civ. A. 8476, Theall v. Sam Carline, Inc.

Docket Nº:Civ. A. 8476
Citation:241 F.Supp. 748
Party Name:Theall v. Sam Carline, Inc.
Court:United States District Courts, 5th Circuit, Western District of Louisiana

Page 748

241 F.Supp. 748 (W.D.La. 1963)

Dudley J. THEALL


SAM CARLINE, INC. and Travelers Insurance Company.

Civ. A. No. 8476.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana

Feb. 29, 1963

Page 749

Simon & Trice, Phil Trice, Lafayette, La., for plaintiff.

Davidson, Meaux, Onebane & Donohoe, James E. Diaz, Lafayette, La., for defendants.

PUTNAM, District Judge.


Complainant, Dudley J. Theall, brings this suit on the law side of the Court under the provisions of Title 46 U.S.C.A. § 688 (Jones Act), and the general maritime law, for indemnity for injuries allegedly received by him while employed aboard a tugboat owned by the defendant, Sam Carline, Inc., on which he was employed as a cook. In addition to indemnity, complainant seeks maintenance and cure.

The case was tried to the Court without a jury, and we make the following findings of fact:


On or about May 5, 1961, complainant was employed by Sam Carline, Inc., as deck hand and cook aboard the tug 'Charles E'.


On said date Theall descended a four-rung ladder into the engine room of the tug from the port side. At the bottom of the ladder is a narrow catwalk approximately three feet in width. He turned and took one or two steps when he fell. In the fall, his right hand became entangled in the belt driving the generator attached to the starboard engine of the vessel.


Photographs introduced in evidence as exhibits D-1 and D-2 shows the port and starboard ladders leading into the engine room, with a portion of the port and starboard engines. D-2 shows the position of the generator and belt which caused plaintiff's injuries. It is completely exposed next to the passageway and catwalk descending from the starboard side, and immediately across from the catwalk used by plaintiff on the port side. There is no protective screen or guard in front of the generator flywheel and belt on the starboard engine, nor is there any such device on the generator and belt on the port engine.

Page 750


The 'Charles E' was underway at the time of the accident, it being stipulated that the vessel docked shortly thereafter.


As a result of his hand becoming entangled in the generator belt, complainant suffered abrasive injuries to the third, fourth, and fifth fingers of his right hand. There was partial loss of skin and flesh, he was given first aid, and on the next day reported to Dr. Dauterive, a physician of New Iberia, Louisiana, who treated him thereafter.


The wound was of a minor nature and healed without any complications. Plaintiff was discharged by Dr. Dauterive as able to return to his usual occupation on June 12, 1961, a total period of 39 days including the date of injury and date of discharge.


There is no showing of any oil or other foreign substance on the catwalk in the engine room where plaintiff slipped. Plaintiff himself testified that he did not know what caused him to fall, other than that he lost his footing on the metal catwalk, which is of the usual corrugated type. There are no hand rails along the walks leading from the port or starboard ladders, nor is there any sort of hand or guard rail along the catwalk located amidships, between the two engines.


There is a very slight stiffening of the little finger of plaintiff's right hand estimated by the attending physician at approximately one per cent loss of the use of this diget, which will, in the doctor's opinion, be a permanent residual of this accident.


Plaintiff has been employed aboard tugs, dredges and other small commercial vessels since he was eighteen years of age, and had been working for defendant Carline approximately five days before the injury of which he complains. The engine room was amply lighted at the time of the accident. There is no necessity for the Court to resolve the conflict in the evidence as to whether or not the electric lighting system was on at that time.


The tug 'Charles E' is a vessel within the meaning of the Jones Act, and plaintiff was employed aboard said vessel as a seaman. The accident occurred in navigable waters in the Bayou Cocodrie area within the jurisdiction of this Court.

Based on the foregoing findings of fact, we reach the following conclusions:


The location of the unguarded generators on both port and starboard engines, with their rapidly moving parts and belts, one on either side of a narrow passageway, coupled with the lack of a handrail along the catwalks, constituted a hazard, making the engine room an unsafe place in which to work and rendering the vessel unseaworthy. The Seeandbee, 102 F.2d 577 (6 Cir. 1939).


Moreover, the maintenance of this condition by the defendant Carline, without placing appropriate guard railings to prevent these rapidly moving belts from catching articles of clothing or even the limbs of workmen required to enter the engine room from time to time constitutes negligence and lack of ordinary care under the circumstances, which negligence resulted in plaintiff's injuries. Keefe v. Matson Nav. Co., 46 F.2d 123, (D.C.W.D.Washington 1930).


Any negligence on the part of an employer under the Jones Act which plays any part, even the slightest, in producing an injury to an employee is sufficient to fix liability for such injuries. Ferguson v. Moore-McCormack Lines, 352 U.S. 521, 524, 77 S.Ct. 457, 459, 1 L.Ed.2d 511, 515 (1957); Rogers v. Missouri Pacific R. Co., 352 U.S. 500, 77 S.Ct. 443, 1 L.Ed.2d 493 (1957); Page v. St. Louis Southwestern Railway Co., 5 Cir., Jan. 3, 1963, 312 F.2d 84,

Page 751

298 A.L.R.2d 639.


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