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FIRST NATL. BANK IN GREENWICH v. NATIONAL AIRLINES

December 11, 1958

FIRST NATIONAL BANK IN GREENWICH and William S. Hirschberg, as Executors of the Estate of Eben F. Putnam, Deceased, and First National Bank in Greenwich As Administrator c.t.a. of the Estate of Frenelia Lillian Putnam, Deceased, Plaintiffs,
v.
NATIONAL AIRLINES, INCORPORATED, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEVET

This is an action brought under the Federal Death on the High Seas Act, 46 U.S.C.A. § 761 et seq., to recover damages for the deaths of Eben F. Putnam and Frenelia Lillian Putnam, which occurred when a DC 6 airplane, owned and operated by the defendant (respondent), National Airlines, Incorporated, crashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Alabama, beyond a marine league from the shore. The sole issue for determination is the extent of the damages, the defendant (respondent) having conceded liability.

After hearing the testimony, examining the exhibits, the pleadings, briefs and counsels' proposed findings, this court makes the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law:

 Findings of Fact

 1. Eben F. Putnam and Frenelia Lillian Putnam, his wife, residents of Greenwich, Connecticut, plaintiffs' (libellants') decedents herein, on February 14, 1953, were fare paying passengers on a certain aircraft owned, operated and controlled by defendant (respondent), National Airlines, Incorporated, which crashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Alabama, beyond a marine league from the shore of Alabama. Said decedents and all others aboard said aircraft were killed.

 2. Prior to the commencement of this action, the plaintiffs (libellants), First National Bank in Greenwich and William S. Hirschberg, were duly appointed co-executors of the Estate of Eben F. Putnam, deceased, and the plaintiff (libellant), First National Bank in Greenwich, was duly appointed administrator c.t.a. of the Estate of Frenelia Lillian Putnam, deceased.

 3. At the trial hereof, the defendant (respondent), National Airlines, Incorporated, conceded its liability for the wrongful deaths of plaintiffs' (libellants') decedents.

 4. Eben F. Putnam was born on April 23, 1891, and was approximately 62 years of age at the time of his death, with a normal life expectancy of approximately 13 years.

 5. Frenelia Lillian Putnam, his wife, was born on January 16, 1896, and was approximately 58 years of age at the time of her death, with a normal life expectancy of approximately 16 years.

 6. A daughter Muriel Putnam Smith, who was born on November 7, 1921, survived. She was married on September 20, 1947, to Everett Smith, Jr.

 7. The decedent also left surviving him his mother, Florence Putnam, who was born November 30, 1870, and consequently was 82 years of age at the time of her son's death, with a life expectancy of 4.46 years.

 8. A sister, Adelaide Putnam, born June 18, 1900, aged approximately 53 years at the time of the death of decedent Eben F. Putnam, with a life expectancy of approximately 19 years, likewise survived.

 9. Alice Putnam, an aunt of the decedent Eben F. Putnam, born June 22, 1866, and therefore approximately 87 years of age at the time of the death of her nephew, with a life expectancy of 3.19 years, survived.

 10. The adjusted gross income of the decedent Eben F. Putnam and the decedent Frenelia Lillian Putnam as shown by joint tax returns were as follows: 1948 $30,623.40 (Pl. Ex. 11) 1949 30,491.19 (Pl. Ex. 12) 1950 40,498.35 (Pl. Ex. 13) 1951 30,843.62 (Pl. Ex. 14) 1952 32,945.92 (Pl. Ex. 15)

 In none of these returns was any other dependent listed by Eben F. Putnam except his wife, Frenelia Lillian Putnam.

 11. The decedent was president and director of The Greenwich Gas Company, The New Rochelle Water Company, The New Canaan Water Company, The New Canaan Company, and was a director of the Alcoma Association in Florida and the Alcoma Packing Association in Florida, and received salaries or director's fees from said corporations. The first four mentioned firms were substantially controlled by the decedent and his family. He had other business interests.

 12. At the time of his death, the salary of Eben F. Putnam as president of The Greenwich Gas Company for the year 1952 was $ 15,465.28 and as president of The New Rochelle Water Company was $ 10,000, making a total in annual salaries of $ 25,465.28. Decedent had been long associated with these companies, and in view of his controlling interest in them it could be reasonably anticipated that his salaries from them would have continued for the balance of his business life.

 13. The decedent resided at 35 West Brother Drive, Greenwich, Connecticut, in a substantial suburban home which contained eleven rooms and 3 1/2 baths.

 14. The relationship between decedents, Eben F. Putnam and Frenelia Lillian Putnam, and their daughter, Muriel Putnam Smith, and their grandchildren and their son-in-law, Everett Smith, Jr., was a very close and intimate one. Muriel Putnam Smith resided with her parents at their home practically all her life. She had been raised to enjoy a high standard of living and had received an education at excellent schools. At the time of Muriel's marriage to Everett Smith, Jr., on September 20, 1947, they continued to reside with her parents until after the birth of the first grandchild, Eben Putnam Smith.

 15. During the period from the marriage of decedent's daughter, Muriel Putnam Smith, on September 20, 1947, to 1949, when the daughter and her family moved into the house provided by the decedent, the daughter and her husband lived with the decedent, certain furniture was paid for by the decedent, food was paid for and other benefits were derived.

 16. In 1949, decedent Eben F. Putnam gratuitously deeded over to Muriel Putnam Smith and Everett Smith, Jr., property at Riversville Road in a fine residential section of Greenwich, Connecticut, consisting of several acres and a garage building and living quarters which he had purchased in 1948 and partially improved at a cost to him of about $ 27,000. During the years 1949, 1950 and 1951, decedent spent a total in excess of approximately $ 39,748.94 in remodelling the property into a substantial residence for his daughter's family. He also paid for furnishing and decorating the house, the furnishings for the bedroom alone costing $ 4,219.89.

 17. During 1950 Eben F. Putnam paid $ 2,300.63 on the principal and interest of the mortgage on said property and paid $ 4,400.58 for additional construction, alterations, decorating and/or furnishings for said house. Additionally, he apparently paid $ 550 for real estate taxes on said property.

 18. It appears that the son-in-law, Everett Smith, Jr., although of good education and apparent good health, at the time of the decedent's death had not progressed materially in business or professional preferment and that from all indications he had little demonstrable evidence of an immediately successful future sufficient to obtain an income adequate to support his wife during the years to come in the standard to which she had been accustomed. I, therefore, find that the decedent, Eben F. Putnam, intended to subsidize his daughter to a reasonable extent in order to enable her to so live.

 19. Miss Gladys Haiges, who was a secretary to the decedent between 1927 and 1953, testified in substance, and I so find, that the decedent made the following contributions to members of his family:

 To the daughter, Muriel Putnam Smith, and her husband, Everett Smith, Jr.: 1948 approximately $ 4,000 1949 approximately $30,383 1950 approximately $15,574 1951 approximately $11,788 1952 approximately $ 4,000 However, of these amounts the following sums were expended in connection with the construction or modification and improvement or furnishings, etc., of the house the decedent had presented to the daughter and the son-in-law: 1949 $24,383 1950 9,574 1951 5,788 This leaves the following residue: 1948 $4,000 1949 6,000 1950 6,000 1951 6,000 1952 4,000

 The records utilized by Miss Haiges in computing the amounts to which she testified were based upon check books, ledger books and other memoranda made by her as secretary to the decedent. The check stubs of the decedent were available; however, the daughter, Muriel Putnam Smith, testified that she had destroyed all of her father's checks approximately one year before the trial.

 20. According to Everett Smith, Jr., the son-in-law, the decedent made payments to him which were included in the figures above mentioned by checks to his account for the benefit of the household in the following amounts: 1950 $1,981 1951 3,709 1952 2,300 According to the testimony of Muriel Putnam Smith, she received the following sums from her father, Eben F. Putnam: 1950 $1,400 1951 275 1952 916 Thus, the totals paid to the daughter and son-in-law by years would be as follows: 1950 $3,381 1951 3,984 1952 3,216

 or an average of approximately $3,527. 21. The earnings of Everett Smith, Jr., the earnings of his wife, Muriel Putnam Smith, the total net income after taxes of the couple, the total expenses of the couple and the deficiency over the net income are shown in the following table: Year Expenses Total Net In- Income of Income of Deficiency come After Everett Murial Taxes Smith, Jr. Putnam Smith 1949 $7,690 $5,928 $4,971 $1,616 $ 1,762 1950 10,334 7,289 5,881 1,738 3,045 1951 13,784 8,576 6,720 3,110 5,208 1952 14,617 8,231 7,809 1,729 6,386 Total $16,401, or a yearly average of $4,100.

 There was evidence that Everett Smith, Jr., received $ 300 a year from his father. This would reduce the ...


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