The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEVET
OPINION, FINDINGS OF FACT and CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
This action is based upon a complaint by a seaman against the United States of America brought under the Public Vessels Act (46 U.S.C. § 781 et seq.), the Suits in Admiralty Act (46 U.S.C. § 741 et seq.) and the General Maritime Law. Jurisdiction is not disputed by the United States of America, the defendant.
Defendant in its answer admitted that it managed, operated and controlled the USNS Cowanesque by and through its operating agent, Mathiason's Tanker Industries, Inc., which, pursuant to contract, manner, victualled, supplied and navigated the USNS Cowanesque as a public vessel of the United States used for and on behalf of the United States Navy on national defense missions in support of the national defense efforts of the United States and not otherwise. (See paragraphs Third, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Tenth, Eleventh of defendant's answer.)
The answer also admits that the above-named plaintiff was employed by defendant by and through its operating agent, Mathiason's Tanker Industries, Inc., as a member of the crew of the USNS Cowanesque, a public vessel of the United States of America, on the terms and conditions of the shipping articles pertaining to the particular voyage on which the vessel was engaged at the time in question. Except as admitted, defendant denies the allegations in paragraph Thirteenth of the complaint. (See paragraph Thirteenth of answer.)
The specific claims of negligence and unseaworthiness are that on October 22, 1968 at or about 9:00 A.M., while so employed as a bedroom utility man on the said ship and while ascending a certain metal ladder in order to go up to the captain's quarters, plaintiff slipped on a so-called "grease-laden step" and fell all the way down the ladder and was caused to strike his head against the fish plate (metal frame) on a catwalk. Defendant denies any negligence and the existence of any unseaworthy condition and alleges that if plaintiff was injured in the manner in which he claimed his injuries were due to negligence on his part.
Because of the nature of the action and the fact that the United States of America was a defendant, the case was tried to the court without a jury.
After hearing the testimony of the parties, examining the exhibits and the Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law submitted by counsel, this court makes the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law:
1. This court has jurisdiction of the above-entitled action by reason of the Public Vessels Act (46 U.S.C. § 781 et seq.) and the Suits in Admiralty Act (46 U.S.C. § 741 et seq.).
2. At all times hereinafter mentioned defendant was the owner of a certain vessel known as the USNS Cowanesque; defendant was the bareboat charterer of the said vessel; defendant operated, controlled, managed and was in possession of said vessel.
3. On October 22, 1968 plaintiff was a merchant seaman employed as a bedroom utility man aboard the said USNS Cowanesque. (5.)
On October 22, 1968, after plaintiff completed his cleaning duties in the stern area of the vessel, he proceeded towards the captain's room, at the front of the vessel, to clean the same, going by means of a catwalk. (7-8, 26-27.)
4. After walking the length of the catwalk plaintiff proceeded to ascend a certain metal ladder in order to go up to the captain's quarters. (27-28.)
5. Plaintiff contends that on said October 22, 1968 at about 9:00 A.M. he fell from the fourth or fifth step of the said ship's ladder, striking his head on a metal rim on the deck below, and that while lying on the said deck he twisted his right foot around so that the sole was facing him and that in this position he ...