Salem v. United States Lines Company

PETITIONER: Salem
RESPONDENT: United States Lines Company
LOCATION: Cleveland, Ohio

DOCKET NO.: 283
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 370 US 31 (1962)
ARGUED: Mar 19, 1962
DECIDED: May 28, 1962

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Salem v. United States Lines Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 19, 1962 in Salem v. United States Lines Company

Earl Warren:

Number 283, James Victor Salem, Petitioner, versus United States Lines Company.

Robert Klonsky:

May it please the Court.

Earl Warren:

Mr. Klonsky.

Robert Klonsky:

Your Honors, we are here concerned with the reversal by the Court of Appeals of the Jones Act seaman's verdict related to James Victor Salem who was a lookout able-bodied seaman aboard respondents S. S. United States.

We are also here concerned with a reversal of an award for future maintenance given by the trial judge on consent of the parties.

The major issue involved here relates itself to whether the initial verdict on negligence and unseaworthiness was infirmed because of the failure of the plaintiff to present an expert on maritime architecture with respect to a simple issue of obvious danger and perhaps it would be best for us to formulate the issue in light of some of the facts involved in this case.

It seems that this S. S. United States at its record speed, coursing at a winter sea on February 16, 1958 was two days from the port of New York.

They had in the fore part of the vessel a 65-foot hollow aluminum tower, known as a radar tower, consisting of several platforms.

And the platform that was 31 feet above the deck would be the platform onto which the crow's-nest personnel would step while coming off an up and down ladder and then go into a bubble in the forward part of its radar tower to perform their function as lookout seamen.

Now, this tower was completely closed at the top and the only illumination provided were by five serially placed lights, one above the other, two of them above the crow's-nest, two below the crow's-nest level of 31 feet above and one at its parallel distance.

Potter Stewart:

It's called a radar tower.

Robert Klonsky:

Yes Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

A person who went up there, I think it is an ordinary old-fashioned lookout to me.

Robert Klonsky:

That's right, sir.

Potter Stewart:

It was just the radar -- there was no radar up there.

Robert Klonsky:

There was radar on there too.

They have cable (Voice Overlap) much further up and people really went there and there were cables, so they were (Voice Overlap) --

Potter Stewart:

It wasn't up there in a crow's-nest so there's need (Voice Overlap) --

Robert Klonsky:

No, no Sir, the radar scope, I would imagine, would be at the very top, but this --

Potter Stewart:

No, the antenna part would be at the very top -- where you read the radar would be on the bridge of the ship.

Robert Klonsky:

Yes Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

Not up here.

Robert Klonsky:

Right sir.

Potter Stewart:

This is for an ordinary conventional lookout.

Robert Klonsky:

Exactly.

Potter Stewart:

Yes.

Robert Klonsky:

And the manner in which they would get to this particular platform level would be to find an up and down ladder which is 15 inches wide or foot apart the rungs, and then they have to breach the open space, this manhole, by putting one foot behind them hoping to grab holes of a radar enclosure which is a rather bulky piece of a pertinence and then swing the other leg around and then walk towards the door which would lead into the bubble which was the radar -- which was the crow's-nest area in which also incidentally there was a telephone.

Well, as I say, they had these five lights and the two lights above the crow's-nest platform had been out for months prior to the accident.

The two lights below this crow's-nest platform were out when Mr. Salem came to work at 12 midnight on this day and it had been the subject of unsuccessful repair six days before without any follow check up by the electrician.

So we are now faced with this vessel, seven degrees to port, six degrees stop and rolling in a rather rough sea with basic -- with passing the rain squalls, the vibration transposed to this particular radar tower using ordinary household bulbs instead of any vibration bulbs with the platform itself without any skid proof paint for friction for the seaman who will have to take this awkward and dangerous procedure of coming over, we see that at the time of the accident which was at 2:30 a.m., that last light went out.