Unpublished Disposition, 883 F.2d 1024 (9th Cir. 1989)Annotate this Case
Richard J. STAHL, Plaintiff-Appellant,v.KONKAR POSEIDON CORPORATION; Konkar Shipping Agencies,S.A., Defendants-Appellees.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Submitted Aug. 7, 1989.* Decided Aug. 22, 1989.
Before JAMES R. BROWNING, FARRIS and CANBY, Circuit Judges.
Richard J. Stahl appeals the district court's order granting summary judgment to Konkar Poseidon Corporation and Konkar Shipping Agencies, S.A. We affirm.
We review de novo a grant of summary judgment. Ferguson v. Greater Pocatello Chamber of Commerce, 848 F.2d 976, 979 (9th Cir. 1989) (citing Richards v. Neilsen Freight Lines, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987)). Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party presents evidence that shows that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. Once the moving party has met this initial burden, the nonmoving party has the subsequent burden of presenting significant probative evidence tending to support its claim that material, triable issues of fact remain. Id.
Stahl contends that there is a genuine issue of material fact about whether Konkar's negligence caused injuries Stahl sustained while working as longshoreman aboard Konkar's vessel. Stahl tripped over a mooring line rigged across the forward deck walkway of the vessel. It is undisputed that the mooring line was correctly rigged as designed.
The Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) was amended in 1972 to abolish longshoremen's actions against shipowners for unseaworthiness. See 33 U.S.C. § 905(b). Thus, Stahl is foreclosed from bringing a claim against the shipowner for negligent design of the mooring line. See Wilhem v. Associated Container Transportation (Australia) Ltd., 648 F.2d 1197, 1198 (9th Cir. 1981). A longshoreman's cause of action against a shipowner for negligence, however, was retained. See 33 U.S.C. § 905(b). Stahl claims that the vessel was negligent in failing either to warn him that the mooring line was there or to make the line more easily visible.
Summary judgment was proper because the shipowner had no duty to undertake either of these tasks. In Scindia Steam Navigation Co. v. De Los Santos, 451 U.S. 156, 170 (1981), the Court held:
As a general matter, the shipowner may rely on the stevedore to avoid exposing the longshoremen to unreasonable hazards. Section 41 of the Act, 33 U.S.C. § 941, requires the stevedore, the longshoremen's employer, to provide a "reasonably safe" place to work and to take such safeguards with respect to equipment and working conditions as the Secretary of Labor may determine to be necessary to avoid injury to the longshoreman. The ship is not the common employer of the longshoremen and owes no such statutory duty to them.
(footnotes omitted). Although a shipowner may have a limited duty to warn stevedores and longshoremen of hidden dangers aboard the vessel, that duty did not apply here. The Scindia Court described this duty as:
warning the stevedore of any hazards on the ship or with respect to its equipment that are known to the vessel or should be known to it in the exercise of reasonable care, that would likely be encountered by the stevedore in the course of his cargo operations and are not known by the stevedore and would not be obvious to or anticipated by him if reasonably competent in the performance of his work.
Id. at 166 (emphasis added). The mooring line Stahl tripped over was not hidden. In fact, Stahl himself noticed another mooring line identical to the one he later tripped over and ordered it marked. To the extent a hazard is known by the stevedore or should be discoverable or anticipated by a reasonably competent stevedore in the performance of his work, it is the duty of the stevedore to take precautions to protect the longshoremen from that hazard. See Bandeen v. United Carriers (Panama), Inc., 712 F.2d 1336, 1340-41 (9th Cir. 1983).
The stevedore was solely responsible for providing warnings, markers, or other safety precautions to prevent tripping on properly rigged mooring lines. This is not the sort of "exceptional case ... in which the shipowner remains liable as a 'deep pocket' defendant, when it turns the vessel over to the stevedore for loading." Id. at 1341.