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June 30, 1953


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MURPHY

This is a consolidated action by two workmen who were injured as a result of a lifeboat falling from the S.S. General Hodges while she was tied up at a pier in Brooklyn. The men were employees of Stuart Marine Corporation and are suing the owner of the vessel, The United States, and the Project Construction Corporation who held the contract with the United States for repair of the ship. The United States in turn has interpleaded the Project Construction and Stuart Marine Corporation on a theory of liability over pursuant to an indemnity agreement in the contract.

The action was tried by the court and the following are made

 Feelings of Fact

 1. At the time of the accident three employees of Stuart Marine Painting Corporation, namely, the libelants, Manhat and Latiff, together with one Raymond Rosa, were working in a lifeboat which was suspended over the side of the S.S. General Hodges directly above the pier. These three men had been directed to scrape, clean and dust the interior of the lifeboat by May Lah, their immediate foreman, who was likewise in the employ of Stuart.

 2. This lifeboat was an all aluminum hull, about 27 feet long, 8 feet wide, 3 1/2 feet deep, weighing 2 1/2 tons and designed to accommodate 43 persons. It was equipped with what is known as the Rottmer-type releasing gear. The release handle, when it was in a secured position, pointed towards the port side of the boat and lay flat flush with the boards on the bottom of the boat resting in a keeper. There were holes in the handle and the keeper for the insertion of a toggle pin. The release handle was painted red and there was a sign bearing the word, 'danger' above the handle.

 3. The lifeboat could not be disengaged from the falls unless the release handle was pulled up and over. The handle from its secured position must describe an arc of 165-170 degrees before the lifeboat is disengaged from the falls. When empty, pressure of 25-30 lbs. must be exerted to pull up the handle, which itself weighed from 3 to 5 lbs.

 4. The lifeboat had been put through a 'man overboard test' on March 15, 1951 while The General Hodges was at sea, released from its falls and thereafter put back in its cradle on deck. On March 19, 1951, this lifeboat was again put over the side, lowered to C deck and its gear inspected.

 5. On the morning of April 4, 1951, the lifeboat was put over the side to permit the crew to chip and paint the deck in the way of the boat. It was secured so that the tops of the gunnels were about flush with the boat or B deck. It remained suspended in its falls until it fell at the time of the accident. At the time it was put overboard the handle of the releasing gear was in its keeper.

 6. Libelant, Manhat, had been to sea on British vessels from 1936 to 1939 and had taken part in many lifeboat drills. During the winter months he worked as a ship cleaner from about 1942 to the time of his accident, except for a period of about four months in 1943 when he was in the Army. He was familiar with lifeboats and their releasing gear.

 7. Libelant, Latiff, a national of the Republic of Indonesia, landed in the United States in December of 1941 and was taken into custody by the Immigration authorities. After hearing, he was ordered deported and a warrant of deportation issued under date od December 22, 1941. He left the United States in the steamship Yorba Linda on January 17, 1942. He re-entered the United States in the steamship El Nil on June 10, 1943. He was again taken into custody and given a hearing before a Special Board of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. That Board ordered him excluded. He appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals. That Board affirmed the order of exclusion but permitted him to depart as a seaman and granted the exercise of subdivision i of Section 3 of the Immigration Act of 1917, 8 U.S.C.A. § 136(i). This permitted him to ship foreign and to land again in the United States to remain only for the period of twenty-nine days or for the period when the ship in which he reached the United States departed, whichever, was the shorter. The extent of his rights under subdivision i of Section 3 of the Immigration Act of 1917 was fully explained to him through an interpreter when he was granted permission to leave the United States as a seaman. He re-entered the United States February 21, 1949 and worked ashore continuously from that date until the day of the accident. Latiff had also served on deck on British vessels. In 1943 he received an ABS ticket and a lifeboat certificate. Thereafter he went to sea in American and other vessels. He was familiar with the releasing gear of lifeboats.

 8. In the afternoon of April 5, 1951, after libelants had been working for two days on the General Hodges and that morning in lifeboats on the port side, the foreman, May Lah, told them and Rosa to get in the lifeboat which had been swung over the side on the previous day, in order to scrape, dust and paint it. He warned them not to touch the handle of the releasing gear. He noted that the releasing gear handle was in the secured position in its keeper.

 9. Fifteen minutes later the lifeboat fell to the pier below. Immediately thereafter the handle of the releasing gear was found in the completely released position, the falls were intact as were the shackles attached to them and the links which had been connected to the hooks in the lifeboat.

 10. As a result of the fall, libelant Manhat sustained a triple fracture of the right ankle, comminuted, injury to his right shoulder, a cut to the bone on his left leg and an everted right foot. ...

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