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MEYER v. UNITED STATES

May 18, 1966

Joseph MEYER, Libelant,
v.
UNITED STATES of America, Respondent, v. MAIN SHIP REPAIR CORP., Respondent-Impleaded



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RYAN

RYAN, Chief Judge:

 This action is before us for trial and decision on stipulated facts.

 The facts are basically as follows: on December 20, 1963, Joseph Meyer, an employee of the Main Ship Repair Corp., was injured while performing repair work on the U.S.S. KANKAKEE, a United States publicly owned ship. He was injured when an extension light was accidentally dropped by a Navy seaman striking him on the head. Meyer's injuries were aggravated because he failed to wear a protective helmet. For this reason, he was contributorily negligent. Meyer is entitled to recover $5,000.00 from the United States which represents the net recovery of the amount which libelant would have been entitled to after reduction of the award because of his own contributory negligence. In addition, the Empire Mutual Insurance Company, the insurer of Main Ship Repair Corp., has medical and compensation liens of $1,094.35.

 The sole question presented for decision is whether the United States must pay Meyer $5,000.00 and repay the medical and compensation liens to the insurer or whether the Main Ship Repair Corp., the respondent-impleaded, shall bear these costs plus the Government's attorneys' fees, disbursements and costs. The answer turns on the interpretation of the master contract for repair and alteration of vessels entered into the Main Ship Repair Corp. and the Department of the Navy.

 The relevant contract provisions are as follows:

 
"CLAUSE 10. LIABILITY AND INSURANCE.
 
(a) The Contractor shall exercise reasonable care and use his best efforts to prevent accidents, injury or damage to all employees, persons and property, in and about the work, and to the vessel or part thereof upon which work is done.
 
* * *
 
(c) The Contractor indemnifies and holds harmless the Government, its agencies and instrumentalities, the vessel and its owners, against all suits, actions, claims, costs or demands (including, without limitation, suits, actions, claims, costs or demands resulting from death, personal injury and property damage) to which the Government, its agencies and instrumentalities, the vessel or its owner may be subject or put by reason of damage or injury (including death) to the property or person of any one other than the Government, its agencies, instrumentalities and personnel, the vessel or its owner, arising or resulting in whole or in part from the fault, negligence, wrongful act or wrongful omission of the Contractor, or any subcontractor, his or their servants, agents or employees; provided, that the Contractor's obligation to indemnify under this paragraph (c) shall not exceed the sum of $300,000 on account of any one accident or occurrence in respect of any one vessel. Such indemnity shall include, without limitation, suits, actions, claims, costs or demands of any kind whatsoever, resulting from death, personal injury or property damage occurring during the period of performance of work on the vessel * * *".

 The contract also provides that the Contractor shall obtain casualty, accident and liability insurance, which it has done.

 Clause 29 of the contract is entitled "DEPARTMENT OF LABOR SAFETY AND HEALTH REGULATIONS FOR SHIP REPAIRING" and directs the attention of the Contractor to certain Health and Safety Regulations and Laws which apply to ship repair and related work. In relevant part, they are as follows: 29 C.F.R. 1501.2 provides:

 
"SCOPE AND RESPONSIBILITY.
 
(a) The responsibility for compliance with the regulations of this part is placed ...

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