Fitzgerald v. United States Lines Company

PETITIONER: Fitzgerald
RESPONDENT: United States Lines Company
LOCATION: Clauson's Inn

DOCKET NO.: 463
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 374 US 16 (1963)
ARGUED: Apr 18, 1963
DECIDED: Jun 10, 1963

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Fitzgerald v. United States Lines Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 18, 1963 in Fitzgerald v. United States Lines Company

Earl Warren:

Number 463, Thomas I. Fitzgerald, Public Administrator of the County of New York, etcetera, Petitioner, versus United States Lines Company.

Mr. Friedman.

Theodore H. Friedman:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This proceeding comes from the Circuit Court of Appeals of the Second Circuit by certiorari.

It involves the specific question of whether a seaman who has brought a maintenance and cure claim appended to a Jones Act negligence claim arising out of the same incident, the same employment, and the same injuries is or is not entitled to a trial by jury of the issues relating to the maintenance and cure claim.

In the Court below, it was denied to him and we are be -- on behalf of a petition on the ground that he was entitled to that trial by jury and that it was improperly denied to him.

As the Court may note from the caption, the plaintiff, Mr. Andres San Martin died during the pendency of the appeal and his administrator, the Public Administrator of the County of New York was substituted and that is why the caption reads the way it does.

He was alive during the time of trial and testified.

Now, very briefly, the facts, as they may relate to the legal question before the Court, was that the petitioner or the intestate alleged that on November 5, 1954, while an ordinary seaman aboard the ship of the respondent, he was directed over his own objection and that of other seamen to carry a 100-pound drum of cement up an inclined gangway from the pier to the ship.

But this gangway was not secure, that he -- as he was going up the gangway with this 100-pound drum of cement on his shoulder, lost his balance, wrenched his back, and suffered severe injuries.

At the end of the voyage in December, he left the ship with master certificate, and went to the United States Public Health Service Hospital in Staten Island, New York.

He was treated there, became an in-patient, and remained an in-patient until March 1, 1955, a period of about -- approximately three months.

He was discharged from that hospital marked “not fit for duty” with the diagnosis of a herniated disc and another notation that he had received maximum hospital benefits.

He filed suit in June of 1955.

The case came to trial in May of 1960 in the Southern District.

At that time, when it finally became time, that I will go into later, for the maintenance and cure testimony to be presented, the defendant's physician, orthopedic specialist, claimed that Mr. San Martin could not receive any further curative care and that when he was discharged on March 1, 1955, his condition was such that he would not benefit in any way from any further medical care.

The plaintiffs, the petitioner's physician, who happened to be the former-Chief of the Orthopedic Service of the very Marine Hospital from which this man had been discharged, testified to the contrary.

This was all to the Court alone since the jury trial had been denied on these issues.

At the --

Potter Stewart:

The issue of being whether you'd reached the point of maximum cure, is that it?

Theodore H. Friedman:

Yes, Your Honor.

And, the testimony of the petitioner's physician was that he should have received conservative treatment, received the brace, there is other medical treatment that this would not only have provided a cure in terms of relief from pain and suffering but would have removed him from the ranks of total disability which is where he remained throughout these five years and would have made him able to accept gainful employment of a non-arduous nature such as an elevator operator or an assembler of parts or things of that nature.

Now --

(Inaudible)

Theodore H. Friedman:

Yes, Your Honor.

(Inaudible)

Theodore H. Friedman:

Well, it's a little longer than the normal at that time.

The Southern District is much less congested now.

The waiting period -- my own experience, limited as it may be was -- is that, now, three years, it's the normal waiting period, approximately two years from the filing of note of issue but that can't be done until all free trial discovery is completed.

It averages about a year, I would say three years.