Czaplicki v. The Hoegh Silvercloud

RESPONDENT: The Hoegh Silvercloud

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

ARGUED: Apr 24, 1956
DECIDED: Jun 11, 1956

Facts of the case


Media for Czaplicki v. The Hoegh Silvercloud

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 24, 1956 (Part 2) in Czaplicki v. The Hoegh Silvercloud

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 24, 1956 (Part 1) in Czaplicki v. The Hoegh Silvercloud

Earl Warren:

Number 342, Blazey Czaplicki versus the Vessel Steamship Hoegh Silvercloud.

Mr. Chazen.

Bernard Chazen:

Mr. Chief Justice, Honorable Justices of the Court.

I represent the libelant, who is the petitioner, on this appeal.

The case involves an application of he assignment provisions of the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

I would like to briefly discuss the factual background first, and then come to the legal argument which turns on a rather narrow issue, I think.

The facts in the case are these.

The libelant and the petitioner here is a longshoreman who was employed by the Northern Dock Company on September 6, 1945.

While working on a vessel in Hoboken, New Jersey, the SS Hoegh Silvercloud, he was injured.

This vessel was owned by the respondent Oivind Lorentzen, the Director of Shipping of Norway and apparently was leased, at least we have alleged that it was operated, managed and controlled by Kerr, the Kerr Steamship Company.

And they've never filed an answer that has not been denied.

Now, on this vessel, there was some contracting work which was done and it was done by a concern known as the Hamilton Marine Contracting Company.

They also are respondents in this case.

The accident happened briefly in this (Inaudible).

Mr. Czaplicki, while going on the vessel, stepped on some steps which had been assembled by carpenters near a catwalk.

These steps were not secured and gave way.

As a result, he fell, he was injured and he went home that day.

He was treated by a doctor supplied by the compensation carrier, the Travelers Insurance Company.

Now after that, the time sequence becomes important because I think it indicates the point which I feel is most important here.

The employer made a report pursuant to the procedure in the Act on, it was dated September 6, the date of the accident.

And in that report, substantially, everything which we have said was reported as to the manner in which this injury happened.

On September 17th, about 11 days later, a notice was sent to the Deputy Commissioner that this claim was going to be controverted by the employer.

Now, this notice appears at 71 of the record.

And I'd like to call the Court's attention to the fact that on the notice, there are several specific grounds listed why the claim would be controverted, the cause of relationship, wages, various points that are typically the basis of controverting a claim of this type.

None of this was checked.

And under other reasons, the -- the Travelers Insurance Company or rather the only reason the Travelers Insurance Company stated was under a clause stated, called other reasons.

And the reason they gave was that the injured is undecided whether or not to sue a third party.

So that the specific purpose of controverting this claim, 11 days after it happened and while the man was still under treatment was for the purpose of forcing him at that point to elect to take compensation or to give up his right and give up his right against any possible third party who would be responsible.

Now, an affidavit has been filed in the course of one of the motions by the libelant.

And he stated that it went to the Commission, he asked for help.