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MURUAGA v. UNITED STATES

May 18, 1948

MURUAGA
v.
UNITED STATES et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BYERS

The libellant seeks a decree for maintenance and cure, by reason of disability suffered by him in the month of March, 1945, while serving as chef on the Moore-McCormack Lines' steamship Uruguay, owned by the United States of America, and operated by Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc., under the usual operating contract. His condition was one of high blood pressure and hypertensive cardio vascular disease, which manifested itself during this said employment but was not caused by it.

He entered the Marine Hospital on Staten Island on March 26, 1945, and was discharged on April 27, 1945, as improved. 'Recommended two weeks convalescence sick leave. Prognosis good.'

 He returned to the hospital on August 9, 1945, complaining of a heart condition, and remained until September 19, 1945, again being discharged as one requiring no further hospitalization and apparently 'fit for duty in two weeks'. Later and on October 4, 1945, he was paid $ 341 maintenance and cure, which was computed on a basis of 118 days, as the result of negotiation between libellant and his employer, and in connection therewith he signed a release 'from all claims which I may have on account of said service'.

 The questions for decision are:

 (1) Has the libellant been paid all that he is reasonably entitled to receive for maintenance and cure?

 (2) Is the release that he signed adequate as a matter of law to foreclose further recovery by him?

 A consideration of the evidence yields the following:

 Findings of Fact

 1. The libellant, a native of Spain and a naturalized citizen, is about 50 years of age and has followed the sea for much of his adult life.

 2. As of October 4, 1945, he could read some English and speak it with understanding; he could also read and write Spanish, but signed the said release by affixing his mark.

 3. During the month of March, 1945, he was a chef on the steamship Uruguay, which was being operated by the respondent Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc., pursuant to agreement with the United States of America which had taken possession of the ship under War powers.

 4. The libellant had been employed by respondent Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc., since the month of April, 1942, on the steamship Brazil, until he was transferred to the ship Uruguay on July 19, 1942, as chef, and so continued until on or about March 26, 1945.

 5. His wartime wages yielded him $ 598 per month plus a bonus of $ 125.

 6. On or about March 8, 1945, he was conscious of dizzy spells and chills, and in a few days took to his bed in the sick bay, and on reaching New York he was removed in an ambulance to the Marine Hospital on Staten Island.

 7. The illness from which he was suffering was hypertension with an indication of cardiac vascular disease which manifested itself during his said employment but was not caused by it.

 8. The libellant remained in the said hospital from March 26, 1945, to April 27, 1945, on which date he was discharged, the discharge reading: 'Improved. ...


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