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BOBORICKEN v. UNITED STATES

December 3, 1947

BOBORICKEN
v.
UNITED STATES et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEAVY

Libelant was employed by respondents as Third Assistant Engineer and later as Second Assistant Engineer on the S.S. Mission Dolores, a T-2 type tanker, for a voyage commencing at San Pedro, California, on the 29th of September, 1945, to the islands of the South Pacific and return, which voyage terminated in Seattle on the 24th day of April, 1946. He brings this action by libel in personam to recover damages as the result of his having become ill with tuberculosis while in the service of the vessel.Libelant alleges that respondents failed to provide to him a seaworthy vessel, and that said vessel proceeded to sea, on the voyage in question, after having been in service for a period of fifteen months without an overhaul, with defective boilers, draft turbine blowers and other defective equipment; that as a result thereof, the vessel broke down while at sea, and libelant was required to perform labor beyond the call of duty, working long hours and in smoke and gas fumes without proper oxygen breathing equipment.He further alleges that, because of the unseaworthiness of the vessel, the ventilation system of the vessel, including exhaust fans in the engine room, was inoperative for long periods of time, and that libelant was required to work and live under conditions of extreme heat and inadequate ventilation, and further, by reason of the breakdowns, there was not provided to him adequate or proper water and food for necessary daily use. He claims that, because of said conditions his health broke down, and he became ill with tuberculosis. In a second cause of action, libelant asks for the payment of maintenance following his discharge from the United States Marine Hospital to an outpatient status.By answer, respondents admit the ownership and operation of the S.S. Mission Dolores by the United States of America, and that Pacific Tankers, Inc., was the vessel's general agent. Respondents deny generally all of the remaining allegations of the libel.Evidence at the time of trial disclosed that, because of defective equipment, the vessel broke down at sea, was repaired by the crew while adrift, and underwent further repairs by the crew at Eniwetok and Saipan, where the vessel lay for six weeks; that, upon leaving Saipan for Pearl Harbor, it broke down again, having been towed to the latter port. When the vessel broke down and could not maintain steam, her own electrical equipment did not function, and the fans and blower system in the engine room were inoperative, resulting in extreme temperatures. The electric galley stoves did not operate, and meals for the crew were prepared over an open fire on the fantail of the vessel. The refrigeration system of the vessel did not operate, making it impossible to keep fresh food available, and resulting in inadequate and improper food for the crew. The evaporators in the engine room also did not function properly, so that there was insufficient fresh water for sanitary purposes.Evidence further disclosed that libelant was required to, and did, work long hours, on several occasions in excess of 24 hours, continuously, to accomplish repairs, in extreme temperatures, cramped quarters, in heavy gas, soot, and fumes, and that he could not be supplied with fresh air while working in the fiddley of the vessel at temperatures up to 140 degrees because the fresh air mask on the vessel was defective.When the libelant joined the vessel he was in good health, but that after joining the vessel he lost weight, caught cold, and, on the 20th day of April, 1946, became ill of tubercular pneumonitis, requiring him to leave the vessel on April 23, 1946, at which time he entered the United States Marine Hospital at Seattle, Washington, where his condition was diagnosed as pulmonary tuberculosis.

19471203

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