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Canizzo v. Farrell Lines Inc.

decided: June 2, 1978.

ANTHONY CANIZZO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE AND CROSS-APPELLANT,
v.
FARRELL LINES, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT AND CROSS-APPELLEE, AND UNIVERSAL TERMINAL AND STEVERDORING CORP., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE AND THIRD PARTY PLAINTIFF; FARRELL LINES, INC., THIRD PARTY PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT, V. FRANK J. HOLLERAN, INC., THIRD PARTY DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from money judgment for personal injuries to longshoreman against shipowner in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Charles L. Brieant, Jr., Judge.

Friendly, Smith and Meskill, Circuit Judges. Friendly, Circuit Judge, dissenting from the holding as to liability.

Author: Smith

SMITH, Circuit Judge:

Farrell Lines, Inc. ("Farrell") appeals from a decision and order of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Charles L. Brieant, Jr., Judge, finding Farrell liable for injuries sustained by appellee Anthony Canizzo in an accident on board Farrell's ship, the S.S. African Comet. The court found Farrell liable for damages in the net amount of $65,628.60, after a deduction which included $8500 per year for remaining earning ability and 40% contributory negligence, and Canizzo cross-appeals from this reduction in the damage award.

For the reasons adduced below, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the district court and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.

This suit commenced with the filing of a complaint against Farrell and Universal Terminal and Stevedoring Corp. ("Universal"), an independent stevedore loading cargo on board the African Comet on the day of the accident. Farrell impleaded Frank J. Holleran, Inc., Canizzo's employer, as a third-party defendant, and filed a cross-claim against Universal. Universal then filed a cross-claim against Holleran. The district court dismissed Canizzo's action against Universal, Farrell's cross-claim against Universal, Farrell's third party complaint against Holleran and Universal's cross-claim against Holleran.

On January 12, 1973, the day of the accident, Universal was employed by Farrell to load the African Comet. Holleran provided lashing and carpentry personnel to secure the cargo after it was loaded by Universal. Canizzo worked for Holleran as a carpenter. At approximately 5:00 p.m. Canizzo was instructed to move from one part of the ship to another in order to continue his work. In so doing, he was forced to traverse a narrow passageway between a locomotive stowed on the inshore area of the deck and a nearby hatch coaming. While walking through this passageway, Canizzo slipped on a patch of grease which was partially covered by a pile of wires which lay on the deck. Canizzo sustained permanent injury to his knee, and as a result, is unable to work as a marine carpenter or longshoreman. He is not, however, totally disabled.

The trial court found that the ship's crew placed cluster lights and their attached electrical wires in the passageway in question after 4:00 or 4:30 p.m., but at least one-half an hour before Canizzo's accident. The lights, wires, and other clutter which lay on top of the greasy deck created an "obviously dangerous" condition which would have been obvious to any prudent person. The court found that Farrell had actual or constructive notice of this condition inasmuch as the ship's personnel should have seen the grease on the deck when they put out the cluster lights. Furthermore, the crew should have anticipated that Canizzo would be unable to avoid the dangerous condition on the deck. This, the district court believed, was sufficient to bring Farrell within the negligence standard of § 343A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts (1965),*fn1 which was adopted in this court's opinion in Napoli v. [Transpacific Carriers Corp.] Hellenic Lines Ltd., 536 F.2d 505 (2d Cir. 1976).

The court found further, however, that Canizzo had been contributorily negligent in failing to walk with sufficient caution, or alternatively, in failing to avoid the wires by taking a different route to the No. 6 hatch. It was further held that Canizzo's damages were reduced, inasmuch as he was capable of earning $8500 per year. Accordingly, the trial court awarded Canizzo $109,381.00 reduced by reason of contributory negligence to $65,628.60.

II.

This suit is brought pursuant to the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act ("LHWCA"), 33 U.S.C. § 901 et seq., as amended. Amendments to the Act passed in 1972 increased levels of compensation payable to injured longshoremen, eliminated the doctrine of unseaworthiness as it pertained to shipowners, made a shipowner's negligence a necessary condition of his liability, and immunized independent stevedore-employers from liability in excess of compensation payments. In the words of the House Report:

The Committee believes that where a longshoreman or other worker covered under this Act is injured through the fault of the vessel, the vessel should be liable for damages as a third party, just as land-based third parties in non-maritime pursuits are liable for damages when, through their fault, a worker is injured.

[But] the Committee believes that especially with the vast improvement in compensation benefits which the bill would provide, there is no compelling reason to continue to require vessels to assume what amounts to absolute liability for injuries which occur to longshoremen . . . who are injured while working on those vessels.

Accordingly . . . it would be fairer to all concerned . . . for the liability of vessels as third parties to be predicated on negligence, rather than the no-fault concept of seaworthiness.

[Report of the House Education and Labor Committee, H.R. Rep. No. 92-1441, 92nd Cong., 2d Sess., 1972 U.S. Code ...


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