Morales v. City of Galveston (370 U.S. 165)/Dissent Douglas

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Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

370 U.S. 165

Morales  v.  City of Galveston

 Argued: April 23 and 24, 1962. --- Decided: June 11, 1962

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and Mr. Justice BLACK concur, dissenting.

The District Court found that the libellants were injured in 1957 as a result of a release into the hold of a 'shot' of grain that completely closed the hatch opening, which was the only source of ventilation for the hold in which they were working. This grain had been treated by chemicals for weevil infestation; and the noxious fumes from those chemicals injured libellants.

The vessel's cargo spaces were not equipped with a forced ventilation system. Grain vessels, the District Court found, rarely are so equipped; and it concluded that forced ventilation is 'not necessary or customary.' If this were an isolated instance of fumigated grain releasing noxious gases, no claim of unseaworthiness could be maintained. But this was not an isolated instance. Of the wheat loaded through this elevator, some 8 to 10% was fumigated by the city. Wheat is commonly fumigated either in the elevators or in railroad cars. When the fumigant is properly applied, the gases and fumes are dissipated so as not to be dangerous or harmful after 24 to 48 hours. The District Court found, however, that to the knowledge of the owners of the vessel several recent incidents like that in the present case had occurred in Galveston, causing injury to longshoremen-one in 1949, one in 1950, two in 1953.

A vessel without a forced ventilation system would be seaworthy if this injury were an unexpected, isolated occurrence. But I agree with Judge Rives of the Court of Appeals that the vessel and her appurtenances were not 'reasonably fit for their intended use' (291 F.2d 97, 99), where up to 10% of the grain loaded from this elevator was fumigated and where the owners had knowledge of like accidents. One 'intended service' of this vessel was, therefore, the loading of fumigated grain which in the past had given off noxious fumes. Unseaworthiness by reason of the absence of a forced ventilation system is clearer here than it was in Mitchell v. Trawler Racer, Inc., 362 U.S. 539, 80 S.Ct. 926, 4 L.Ed.2d 941, where temporary slime and gurry on the ship's rail rendered it unseaworthy. The unseaworthy condition in the present case had no such temporary span. What happened here shows that the vessel was unseaworthy whenever fumigated grain was being loaded.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).