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SANGO v. PLOVBA

June 4, 1997

VESELA SANGO, as Executrix of the ESTATE OF RAFAEL SANGO and VESELA SANGO, Individually, Plaintiff, against SPLOSNA PLOVBA, JAMES E. CURRAN & COMPANY, INC. and DOES 1-5, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SCHEINDLIN

 SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, U.S.D.J.:

 Plaintiff Vesela Sango alleges that defendants' failure to provide adequate care for her seaman husband, Rafael Sango, who committed suicide at sea, constitutes negligence under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 688, and unseaworthiness under general maritime law. See Moragne v. States Marine Lines, 398 U.S. 375, 26 L. Ed. 2d 339, 90 S. Ct. 1772 (1970). The parties agreed to a trial to the Court on a stipulated record. For the reasons discussed below, this case is dismissed for failure to state a valid claim.

 I. FINDINGS OF FACT

 On November 3, 1975, decedent Rafael Sango ("Sango") entered into an employment agreement with Defendant Splosna Plovba ("Plovba"), an international shipping company based in the neighboring cities of Piran and Portoroz on the Adriatic coast of Slovenia. He served regularly as a boatswain (a petty rigging officer) aboard Plovba's ships for nearly seventeen years, and was held in high esteem by his shipmates and the officers supervising him. See Joint Exhibits 1 and 2. *fn1" Mrs. Sango estimates that her husband visited the United States once each year in the course of his employment with Plovba. There is no further evidence in the record indicating the amount of business Plovba conducted in the United States. See Certification of Vesela Sango, December 29, 1995, ("Sango Cert.") P 3.

 Sango was married to Plaintiff Vesela Sango on December 19, 1970. The Sangos had four children, one of whom is still a dependant. Id. P 2. Sango was at sea for approximately eight months of every year, and supported his family with a $ 21,600 salary from Plovba and an additional $ 6,000 earned from selling wine, fish and ham while home in Privlaka, Croatia. Id. P 7.

 Sango signed on to the M/V Novo Mesto as boatswain on March 16, 1992 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. See J. Ex. 1. The Novo Mesto was owned and operated by Plovba and flew the flag of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an independent member state of the British Commonwealth. See Joint Pre-Trial Order at 2. The entire crew of the Novo Mesto were domiciliaries of what was then Yugoslavia. See J. Ex. 6.

 On August 17, 1992, Sango called his wife from aboard the M/V Novo Mesto while at sea. Sango Cert. P 4. He told her "very horrible things" were occurring on board the ship, that he could not elaborate, and that he was planning to leave the ship at the next port (Albany) and fly home. Id. Shortly thereafter, as the Novo Mesto navigated the Hudson River, the chief mate noticed that Sango "began to behave in a nervous manner and overreacting [sic] in certain ways":

 
He was concerned about the cargo and that it be delivered in good condition. This was the cement cargo going to Burnside. At anchor outside Albany, New York before 9/7/92 he saw fishing vessels near the ship and told me he thought they were undercover Coast Guard boats trying to catch the vessel in some wrongdoing. I assured him this was not so and I forgot about it.

 J. Ex. 2. On the evening of August 6, 1992, Sango reported to the second mate complaining of insomnia and loss of appetite and requesting a doctor's visit. See Pl.'s Mem. Ex. D (translation of Novo Mesto log for September 7, 1992). The following afternoon, as the Novo Mesto docked at Shed 5, Port of Albany, New York, another crew member discovered Sango hanged by the neck in the ship's forecastle. See J. Ex. 2. Attempts at resuscitation by the crew and by the Albany Emergency Medical Services failed, and Sango was pronounced dead at 1:30 p.m. See J. Ex. 9. The Albany Coroner's Physician classified Sango's death as a suicide. See J. Ex. 8.

 The only evidence in the record regarding Sango's motivation for committing suicide is the reported statement of Albany Police Sgt. Ron Adriance in a local Albany newspaper that Sango had been "depressed for several days over his job and talk that the shipping firm he worked for was considering lowering wages or getting another crew." Pl.'s Mem. Ex. B.

 On December 1, 1992, Mrs. Sango was paid 88,000 Slovenian thalers from her husband's life insurance policy with Plovba. See Pl.'s Mem. Ex. C.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Subject Matter ...


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