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BORGERSEN v. SKIBS

July 8, 1957

Roy BORGERSEN, Libelant,
v.
SKIBS, A/S ABU in a cause of action for personal injuries civil and maritime, Respondent, and Sigurd Golten Machine Corporation, Respondent-Impleaded



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BYERS

The libel (filed December 16, 1952) has to do with an injury said to have been sustained by the libelant on the respondent's M. V. Iselin on May 22, 1951, when he was working in the engine room at about 11:30 p.m. of that day. He was employed by the impleaded respondent Golten as a helper engine repairman; he asserts that while stripping the No. 1 piston, getting it ready for the main repair crew to work on, he was reaching into the cylinder to loosen certain lock-nuts, when he slipped and fell some five or six feet into the drainage pit under the cylinder, struck his head and sustained a concussion.

He accuses the ship of unseaworthiness in that there was oil on the deck plates on which he was standing; and that there was no portable light supplied to him, although he says he requested one, from a ship's engineer.

 There was an overhead electric light, some six feet above and four or five feet back of him. He says this was 'kind of a dim kind.' That it was shining down and he 'couldn't see everything that was down by' him.

 However he was able to see the deck plate on which he was standing.

 The libelant's brief candidly states that 'the illumination of the engine room in general is not here in issue.'

 Thus it is the alleged lack of portable hand lights upon which this particular assertion of unseaworthiness rests. Such lights were necessary to enable a man to work inside the cylinder, and it is so found, based upon the testimony of Ereksen, the snapper of the gang with which libelant was working.

 The latter said that there were four or six such lights provided. That libelant did not ask Ereksen for such a light, although that would seem to be the natural thing for him to do, if he was in need of it.

 His precise task as he describes it, at the time of his fall, was the use of pliers to pull wire off or through the lock-nut; he then tapped it, and took it off with a wrench. Seemingly that operation exposed the holding nut.

 Being asked if he was required to exert much strength he said that the wire was heavy and sometimes bent.

 He had removed one or two of such nuts before he full, even though he was working as he says, without a portable light.

 Apparently it was the reaching over to other nuts on the opposite side of the cylinder that preceded the fall. How that reaching could have been avoided by the presence of a portable light, has not been made to appear. Ereksen said that only two or three such lights were needed.

 Based upon the deposition of Fornes, and the testimony of Ereksen, it is found that the ship was equipped with a sufficient number of portable lights for the use of a gang employed in repairs to the engines, and in this respect the M. V. Iselin was not unseaworthy.

 For work inside the cylinder the men were provided with planks upon which to stand, but the libelant did not make use of one, because -- as he explained -- he alone was working; he says it would have been proper to use the plank if the whole gang had been there.

 The planks, according to the deposition of Fornes, the chief engineer of the ship, and the testimony of Ereksen, were needed to be put in place to enable men to reach the nuts, which they could not do, by standing on the floor plates. Thus it was the libelant's election to try to reach the lock-nuts without the aid of planks, that caused him to overreach, and so lose his balance; that was the true cause of the ...


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