358 U.S. 423 (1959), 61, Crumady v. The Joachim Hendrik Fisser

Docket Nº:No. 61
Citation:358 U.S. 423, 79 S.Ct. 445, 3 L.Ed.2d 413
Party Name:Crumady v. The Joachim Hendrik Fisser
Case Date:February 24, 1959
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 423

358 U.S. 423 (1959)

79 S.Ct. 445, 3 L.Ed.2d 413



The Joachim Hendrik Fisser

No. 61

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 24, 1959

Argued January 12-13, 1959




Petitioner was injured while working for a stevedoring company engaged in unloading a ship in an American port under contract with a third party to whom the ship had been chartered. Petitioner brought this admiralty suit by libel in rem against the ship, which impleaded the stevedoring company. The District Court found that the ship was unseaworthy, and therefore liable to petitioner, but it also found that the primary cause of the accident was negligence of the stevedoring company which brought into play the unseaworthy condition of the ship, and it directed the stevedoring company to indemnify the ship for the damages to petitioner.

Held: the judgment of the District Court is sustained. Pp. 424-429.

1. The District Court correctly applied the concept of unseaworthiness, and its findings of fact were not clearly erroneous. Pp. 426-428.

2. Since the negligence of the stevedoring company which brought the unseaworthiness of the ship into play amounted to a breach of the warranty of workmanlike service, and that warranty was for the benefit of the ship, the ship is entitled to indemnity from the stevedoring company. Pp. 428-429.

249 F.2d 818 reversed, and judgment of the District Court reinstated.

Page 424

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner, Crumady, was an employee of a stevedoring company engaged in transferring a cargo of lumber from the ship Joachim Hendrik Fisser, of German registry, to a pier at Newark, New Jersey. While so engaged, he was injured, and brought this admiralty suit by libel in rem against the vessel. The vessel impleaded the stevedoring contractor.

When the accident happened, the stevedores were trying to lift two timbers through a hatch. The manner of the accident was described as follows by the District Court:

. . . libellant and his fellow employees had placed a double-eyed wire rope sling, provided with a sliding hook movable between the eyes thereof, around the two timbers at a location two or three feet from their after ends. The two eyes of the sling were then placed upon the cargo hook of the up-and-down boom runner, and a signal given by the stevedore gangwayman to the winchman to "take up the slack." The winchman complied with the signal, and, during this operation, libellant stood clear upon other timbers forming a part of the cargo, within the open square of the hatch. There was some testimony that, when the slack was taken up by the winchman, the two timbers slid toward each other in the sling, the timber

Page 425

which had been under the lower edge of the hatch coaming moving or commencing to move toward the timber which lay within the open hatch square. After the slack had been taken up by the winchman, the same signaler called for the "taking of a strain" upon the cargo runner. The winchman again responded, the two-part topping-lift broke, and the head of the up-and-down boom, with its attached cargo and topping-lift blocks, fell to the top of the cargo within the hatch square.

The topping-lift had been rigged in a double purchase, and had been supporting the head of the boom. The wire rope constituting the topping-lift extended from a shackle on the topping-lift block at the cross-tree of the mast, through a block at the boom head, back through the mast block, down the mast, through a block welded to the mast table, and thence around a drum of the winch. When the boom fell, libellant was knocked down, either by the boom itself or its appurtenant tackle, and thus sustained numerous serious and permanently disabling orthopedic and neurological injuries.

142 F.Supp. 389, 391.

The safe working load of the boom and cargo runner and topping-lift handling the load at the time of the accident was three tons each. This equipment, which was part of the unloading and loading gear of the vessel, was in good condition. The winch, which served the boom, had a "cut off" device, [79 S.Ct. 447] or circuit breaker. It was set to shut off the current on the application of a load of about six tons, which was twice the safe working load of the unloading gear. The circuit breaker operated perfectly, cutting off current at the point of stress for which it was set. It had been set to operate at a load slightly more than twice

Page 426

the safe working load of the unloading gear * by employees of the ship before the winch...

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