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Conceicao v. New Jersey Export Marine Carpenters Inc.

decided: December 11, 1974.


Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Robert J. Ward, Judge. Cia. De Nav. Mar. Netumar, shipowner, appeals from a judgment granting damages for personal injuries to plaintiff and dismissing a cross-claim against New Jersey Export Marine Carpenters, Inc., and a third-party complaint against International Terminal Operating Co., Inc. There is also a protective cross-appeal by plaintiff. Affirmed.

Medina, Friendly and Gurfein, Circuit Judges.

Author: Medina

MEDINA, Circuit Judge:

The SS Mosqueiro sailed from Pier 36, East River, New York City on her overseas voyage on November 5, 1970. That morning the task of loading and stowage was nearing completion and the parties to this appeal were performing or failing to perform their respective functions in connection with the removal from a lighter, moored to the offshore or port side of the vessel, of a large quantity of huge steel pipes and stowing them on the forward weather deck of the vessel. In connection with this loading and stowing operation, one of the pipes was dislodged and rolled over the foot of the plaintiff, a longshoreman, causing the injuries on account of which the jury awarded him $42,000 damages.

There is no satisfactory proof in the record of the exact number of pipes actually lifted from the lighter and stowed on the forward deck of the vessel. But, as we shall see, the number of pipes was large. They were 30 to 40 feet long, about 18 inches in diameter and each weighed considerably more than a ton. Speaking in broad terms the functions of the parties to this appeal, in connection with the operation of removing the pipes from the lighter and stowing them on the forward weather deck of the vessel were: (1) it was the obvious duty of the shipowner, Cia. De Nav. Mar. Netumar, to decide where and how the pipes were to be stowed; (2) in connection with the stowage in a place where, during the voyage, heavy seas might be encountered, orders were given on behalf of the shipowner to New Jersey Export Marine Carpenters, Inc. (The Carpenters), to build cribs, crates or wooden pipe beds into which the pipes could be lowered and stowed by the winchmen and the longshoremen, and two of these wooden pipe beds were built; (3) the actual loading and stowing were done by longshoremen such as Conceicao employed by the stevedore, International Terminal Operating Co., Inc. (ITO). These longshoremen in the employ of ITO included the winchmen, the hatch boss and, in this case, 8 longshoremen, including the plaintiff, who were stationed on top of the hatch covers at hatch No. 1 to guide the drafts into place in this pipe bed on the starboard or inshore side of the hatch.

Conceicao sued the shipowner, claiming that the unseaworthiness of the vessel and the negligence of the shipowner were proximate causes of the accident, and The Carpenters, claiming that a breach by The Carpenters of its implied warranty of workmanlike performance was a proximate cause of the accident. Each of these cross-claimed against the other, and they also asserted a claim against ITO as a third-party defendant.

The case was tried to Judge Ward and a jury. In answer to written interrogatories the jury found:

(1) That the vessel was not unseaworthy but that the shipowner was guilty of negligence that was a proximate cause of the accident, thus establishing plaintiff's claim against the shipowner, exonerating plaintiff of any contributory negligence and fixing the damages at $42,000.

(2) That The Carpenters had not breached any warranty of workmanlike performance that it owed plaintiff, thus finding no liability on the part of The Carpenters for improperly constructing the pipe bed.

(3) That ITO had breached its warranty of workmanlike performance of the stevedoring operation and that this breach was a proximate cause of the accident, but that the conduct of the shipowner had been such as to prevent the shipowner from recovering indemnity from ITO on the claim against ITO as third-party defendant. In terms of the instructions to the jury this meant that indemnity was denied because the jury found that the shipowner "by some action or inaction * * * prevented, hindered or seriously handicapped ITO in performing its workmanlike job."

The result of these findings was a judgment in favor of Conceicao and against Netumar for the amount of damages fixed by the jury. The claims and cross-claims against The Carpenters and ITO were dismissed. The trial judge on December 10, 1973 filed an unreported opinion denying the shipowner's motion to set aside the verdict and for judgment in its favor either dismissing the complaint or granting it indemnity against ITO or in the alternative for a new trial. The shipowner appeals. There is also a protective appeal by Conceicao.


How the Accident Happened and the Issues on This Appeal

There was evidence from which the jury was justified in concluding that on the morning of November 5, 1970 there was a lighter on the port or offshore side of the Mosqueiro and on this lighter were the heavy pipes to be loaded and stowed on the vessel. Alongside the port and starboard No. 1 hatches, which were those nearest to the bow of the vessel, The Carpenters had constructed two wooden pipe beds or cribs. In loading the starboard or inshore crib the pipes were lifted, two at a time, from the lighter, swung across the No. 1 hatches and guided by the longshoremen, who were standing on the closed and battened down hatch covers of the starboard hatch No. 1, to a position just over the pipe crib. Then the two pipes were lowered gently into the crib. ...

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