JUDGMENT NOTHWITHSTANDING THE VERDICT ENTERED IN FAVOR OF TUGBOAT OPERATOR WHERE SHIPOWNER NOT FOUND NEGLIGENT BUT SHIP FOUND UNSEAWORTHY FOR HAVING AN ICY DECK – COURT FINDS THE HAZARDS OF SNOW, SLEET, AND ICE ON VESSELS’ DECKS DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY RENDER A VESSEL UNSEAWORTHY BECAUSE THEY ARE UNAVOIDABLE INCIDENTS OF SHIPBOARD LIFE
ROBERT C. FOSTER AND ANN I, FOSTER, his wife, Appellees v. MARITRANS, INC., MARITRANS GP, INC. AND MARITRANS OPERATING PARTNERS, L.P.,Appellants
No. 240 EDA 2001
SUPERIOR COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA
2002 PA Super 4; 2002 Pa. Super. LEXIS 3
June 26, 2001, Argued
January 9, 2002, Filed
PRIOR HISTORY: Appeal from the Judgment entered December 11, 2000. In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. Civil No. 001070 – February Term, 1998. Before DEMBE, J.
DISPOSITION: Reversed in part, and remanded. Affirmed in part. Jurisdiction relinquished.
PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Defendant tugboat operator appealed from that portion of a judgment that awarded plaintiff injured seaman and his wife damages for injuries resulting from the tugboat’s alleged unseaworthiness under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C.S. § 688 et seq.
OVERVIEW: A seaman was injured when he slipped on the icy deck of the tugboat. In a lawsuit under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C.S. § 688 et seq., he sought damages for negligence, as well as the traditional maritime remedies of maintenance and cure, as to which the tugboat operator did not question its liability. The appeals court held that after the jury found the tugboat operator not negligent but that the tugboat was still unseaworthy, the trial court should have granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the operator. The hazards of snow, sleet, and ice on vessels’ decks did not automatically render a vessel unseaworthy, given that they were unavoidable incidents of shipboard life. So long as the deck was not unreasonably slippery, the operator should not have been held liable.
OUTCOME: The court reversed the judgement to the extent appealed from and remanded with directions to enter judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the tugboat operator, and affirmed the remainder of the judgment.