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LAVALL v. UNITED STATES

May 16, 1950

LAVALL et al.
v.
UNITED STATES et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NOONAN

The libelants, members of the crew of the S.S. Jesse Billingsley have instituted this action to recover an award for alleged salvage services which they claim were rendered by them to their own vessel on November 19, 1945.

From all of the evidence adduced at the trial, I am not at all persuaded that the libelants have established by a fair preponderance of the credible evidence, that the abandonment of the S.S. Jesse Billingsley was absolute and without hope or expectation of returning to the vessel, nor that the members of the crew were clearly discharged from their duties to her and from their shipping contract.

 The libel is, therefore, dismissed. Submit Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law accordingly.

 Findings of Fact

 1. At all material times the S.S. Jesse Billingsley was owned by respondent, United States of America, and with respect to which respondent, William J. Rountree Co., Inc., acted as a general agent, as a ship's husband and for the performance of certain other shoreside functions.

 2. The S.S. Jesse Billingsley, a Liberty ship, left New York for a voyage to Trieste and return on October 29, 1945.

 3. The S.S. Jesse Billingsley carried cargo consisting of bagged flour, which cargo was owned by United States of America.

 4. On November 18, 1945, the S.S. Jesse Billingsley put in at Ancona, Italy, for a few hours where her master received routing instructions from the British authorities in charge of that port, for the voyage from Ancona to Trieste.

 5. On November 19, 1945, at 11:40 A.M., in an area approximately five miles off Savola Point, the S.S. Jesse Billingsley came in contact with a submerged object which caused a violent explosion at the bow.

 6. The vessel went down at the bow and took a list to starboard.

 7. The master, in the exercise of his discretion and for the safety of the crew, sounded the general alarm and sent out a call for aid. Approximately ten minutes after the explosion occurred, the master ordered the crew to take to the #1 and #3 starboard lifeboats.

 8. The said lifeboats were lowered away and the master issued instructions for the lifeboats to stay together and to stay in the vicinity of the S.S. Jesse Billingsley.

 9. The two lifeboats rowed a safe distance away from the S.S. Jesse Billingsley, in the meantime keeping the vessel under constant observation and staying in her vicinity. For periods of ten or fifteen minutes at a time they would drift with the S.S. Jesse Billingsley.

 10. Weather conditions were favorable. Visibility was good; the temperature was mild; slight winds prevailed; and the state of the ...


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