Todd Shipyards Corp. v. Turbine Serv., Inc., Civ. A. No. 75-1825

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
Writing for the CourtGeorge V. Baus, Adams & Reese, Michael G. Crow, New Orleans, La., for Turbine Service, Inc
Citation467 F. Supp. 1257
PartiesTODD SHIPYARDS CORPORATION, Plaintiff, v. TURBINE SERVICE, INC., Gonzales Manufacturing and Industrial Machine Works, Inc., and a Certain Turbine Rotor, Casing, Blades, Rings, Housing, and All Assorted Parts Thereto, all of which being from the SS KATRIN, Defendants.
Decision Date01 September 1978
Docket Number75-2719.,Civ. A. No. 75-1825

467 F. Supp. 1257

TURBINE SERVICE, INC., Gonzales Manufacturing and Industrial Machine Works, Inc., and a Certain Turbine Rotor, Casing, Blades, Rings, Housing, and All Assorted Parts Thereto, all of which being from the SS KATRIN, Defendants.

Civ. A. Nos. 75-1825, 75-2719.

United States District Court, E. D. Louisiana.

September 1, 1978.

467 F. Supp. 1258
467 F. Supp. 1259
467 F. Supp. 1260
467 F. Supp. 1261
467 F. Supp. 1262
467 F. Supp. 1263
467 F. Supp. 1264
467 F. Supp. 1265
467 F. Supp. 1266
467 F. Supp. 1267
William R. Pitts, Breard Snellings, New Orleans, La., for Siemens A. G., Siemens Capital and Siemens Corp

James B. Kemp, Jr., Phelps, Dunbar, Marks, Claverie & Sims, New Orleans, La., Richard A. Hagen, Crowell, Rouse & Varian, New York City, for Todd Shipyards Corp.

William A. Ransom, III, Chaffe, McCall, Phillips, Toler & Sarpy, New Orleans, La., Donald F. Mooney, New York City, for Auto Transportation.

George V. Baus, Adams & Reese, Michael G. Crow, New Orleans, La., for Turbine Service, Inc.

Fred E. Salley, Jones, Walker, Waechter, Poitevent, Carrere & Denegre, New Orleans, La., for Travelers Ins. Co.

Crawford, Lambert & Goldsmith, John L. Goldsmith, Gonzales, La., Ralph E. Smith, Deutsch, Kerrigan & Stiles, Allen F. Campbell, New Orleans, La., for Gonzales.

Hammett, Leake, Hammett, Hayne & Hulse, John I. Hulse, IV, New Orleans, La., for Sentry Ins. Co.

CASSIBRY, District Judge.



This case involves an attempt by owners of the vessel KATRIN to recover damages due to faulty repairs performed by several repairers. The SS KATRIN was purchased by Auto Transportation, S.A. ("Owners" or "Shipowners") early in 1973 and managed and operated by Diana Shipping Agencies, Inc., a Greek management company ("Diana"). In February of 1975, the vessel entered Todd Shipyards Corporation's ("Todd") repair yard at Algiers, La. for repairs to the bulkheads and boilers as well as an inspection of the vessel's high pressure (HP) and low pressure (LP) turbines. Todd engaged a subcontractor, Turbine Service, Inc. ("Turbine Service") to open up the turbines for inspection. The LP turbine was found to be badly damaged, needing extensive reblading and repair. The HP turbine required relatively minor repairs. Todd obtained a bid from Turbine Service for the required repair of the turbines. Turbine Service, in turn, subcontracted a substantial portion of the work to Gonzales Manufacturing and Industrial Machine Works, Inc. ("Gonzales").

Todd and Turbine Service personnel searched for replacement blades for the KATRIN's LP turbine. Finding none that were suitable, Turbine Service procured some blades which had an airfoil profile similar to the airfoils of the KATRIN's LP rotor blades.1 A decision was made to arc weld more than 400 of these replacement airfoils onto roots of old blades for insertion into the KATRIN's LP turbine rotor. Who decided to do this welding was a primary issue at trial. Because the fabricated blades were shorter than the original KATRIN blades, Gonzales manufactured "spacer rings," annular steel rings, to attach to the inner diameter of the KATRIN's LP turbine casing to take up the gap left between the fabricated blades and the casing. In addition, shrouding strips were manufactured and attached to the rotor blades around the entire circumference of four

467 F. Supp. 1268
rows.2 Shrouding is a steel rim all the way around the ends of the airfoils. The casings, rotor and airfoils may be seen in pictures which are in the record

The work on the turbines was accomplished during March, April and May of 1975. The turbines were tested during two dock trials without major incident. On Saturday, May 24, 1975 the KATRIN underwent a river trial. A Todd observer on board the KATRIN during the river trial reported that the turbines had reached normal operating speed when he heard a "ping" in the LP turbine. Later he heard two more "pings" followed by a rubbing sound. The turbines were stopped and the vessel was returned to Todd by tow. The LP turbine was opened, and considerable damage was found. Owners elected to ship the LP turbine to Siemens A.G. in Germany ("Siemens"), the original manufacturer, for rebuilding.3 Eight months later the LP turbine was returned to New Orleans and reinstalled by owners' own contractor, outside Todd Shipyards, under the supervision of manufacturer's and owners' representatives. An examination of the HP turbine, which had remained in place in New Orleans, disclosed that the gaps between the tips of the rotor blades and the outer casing of the turbine (known as "clearances") were excessive. Despite this discovery owners decided to let the vessel sail out of New Orleans on March 2, 1976.

The vessel traded commercially for the next four months, experiencing excessive temperatures in the condenser top. In July of 1976, passing the Irish coast at Cork, one boiler was closed down while repairs were being made to an evaporator cover, and the vessel maintained a speed of about 45 RPM. The turbines suddenly seized and stopped. The vessel began drifting towards the coast, and the danger was such that preparations were made to abandon ship. The master ordered the chief engineer to try to operate the turbines, no matter what their condition, in order to save the ship and crew. The chief engineer started the turbines and operated them long enough to bring the vessel away from the coast and subsequently into Cork harbor. The damage to both the HP and LP turbine due to this casualty was so extensive that the vessel was sold for scrap.


This suit was initiated on June 11, 1975 by Todd against Turbine Service and Gonzales demanding return of the damaged turbine parts of the KATRIN, which had been removed after the river trial casualty and taken to the shops of Turbine Service and Gonzales. Both Gonzales and Turbine Service asserted a lien for monies due from Todd on prior invoices for work done on the turbines. Owners then intervened in this action. After that, Turbine Service's insurer, The Travelers Insurance Company

467 F. Supp. 1269
(Travelers) and Gonzales's insurer, Sentry Insurance Company (Sentry), were brought into the case. More recently, Siemens was impleaded. Siemens counterclaimed against Todd for unpaid bills for attendance of their representatives in New Orleans after the river trial casualty

The title of the consolidated suits does not accurately reflect the position of the various parties. The true nature of the litigation is an action by shipowners to recover for damage to the KATRIN. The main action has had various interrelated claims, counter-claims and cross-claims of the parties engrafted onto it. The parties' claims are summarized as follows:

1. Shipowners seek to recover an amount stated to be in excess of three million five hundred seven thousand and five hundred sixty-two ($3,507,562.00) dollars for the cost of repairing the LP turbine in Germany, loss in value by reason of the casualty off Cork, detention of the vessel during the various repair periods and related survey fees, expert fees, and expenses. Shipowners have sued Todd, Turbine Service, Gonzales, Travelers and Sentry, all of whom are named defendants.

2. Todd has counter-claimed against shipowners for the balance of its repair invoices of $175,166.00 and also for approximately $99,647.00 for work ordered by ship-owners' representative after the casualty of May 24, 1975. Todd has also cross-claimed against defendants Turbine Service and Gonzales and their respective underwriters for indemnity in the event Todd is found liable to shipowners, together with the cost of defense and seeks to recover $40,000 paid to Turbine Service on account.

3. Turbine Service and Travelers have cross-claimed against Gonzales and Sentry for indemnity for negligent workmanship by Gonzales; Turbine Service has counter-claimed against Todd and claimed against the vessel to recover $125,000, the unpaid balance of its invoices for the initial turbine repair.

4. Gonzales has cross-claimed against Turbine Service and Todd and counter-claimed against shipowners to recover unpaid invoices of $50,000 and seeks indemnity from Turbine Service for any liability it may have to shipowners or Todd.

5. Siemens has settled with shipowners and has been dismissed from the action on condition that any liability of Siemens for the Cork casualty will pro tanto reduce the liability of the remaining defendants. Siemens has retained its counter-claim against Todd for the cost of its service representatives in the amount of $12,838.01.


A global summary of the issues and how I have resolved them might help in understanding the subsequent discussion. (The Appendix is a list of dramatis personae in alphabetical order.) It was vital to determine what caused the river trial casualty, and I have determined that the preponderance of evidence shows that the failure of one or more low pressure rotor blades initiated the chain of damages. The ultimate loss of the ship was due to the casualty at Cork, but I have concluded that no repairer was responsible for the defect that caused that casualty. The classic questions of negligence analysis were presented here, i. e., was any repairer negligent and was the negligent act a proximate cause of the river casualty. I have found all of the repairers liable to owners in tort. I have found no contributory negligence on the part of owners.

A separate but parallel route to liability urged by shipowners was breach of warranty. I have concluded that all repairers owed an obligation of diligent and workmanlike performance to the shipowners and breached it, that the breaches...

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