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PETERSEN v. HEAD CONSTR. CO.

November 30, 1973

Edward S. PETERSEN et al., Plaintiffs, and United States of America, Intervenor-Plaintiff,
v.
HEAD CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, Defendant


John H. Pratt, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: PRATT

JOHN H. PRATT, District Judge.

This case came on for trial without a jury on May 23-25 and 29, 1973. After hearing and considering all of the evidence and submissions, the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 Findings of Fact

 1. Plaintiff Edward S. Petersen is a 26-year-old male who at the time of this accident was a trumpet soloist in the United States Navy Band. Plaintiff Petersen was the owner and operator of the fiberglass planing hull boat, 14 feet in length with a 4 1/2 foot beam, and powered by a 50 h.p. Mercury outboard engine, one of the two craft involved in this incident.

 2. Plaintiff Larry Schickram is 28 years old and employed by Congressional Oldsmobile. At the time of the collision, plaintiff Schickram was a passenger in the Petersen boat, seated to the left of Petersen.

 3. Defendant Head Construction Company is a roadway construction firm whose principal place of business is the District of Columbia. Defendant Head chartered and operated a barge, 93 feet in length with a 43-foot beam, which was the vessel with which the plaintiff Petersen's boat collided. The barge had no motive power of its own but was moved by a tug owned and operated by the defendant Head Construction Company.

 4. Around the time of the occurrence Head Construction was engaged in completing the road surface of the Center Highway Bridge which was to be part of the I-95 interstate route. The Center Highway Bridge was one of three bridges extending across the Potomac from 14th Street in the District of Columbia to the Virginia side of the river.

 5. Defendant's barge was used for the temporary storage and transportation of wooden forms stripped from the concrete work at the road level of the Center Highway Bridge. Defendant's tug would shift the barge to wherever work was to be performed.

 6. At the end of the work day on Friday, September 4, 1970, the defendant left the barge moored lengthwise under Span 10 of the Center Highway Bridge. Span 10 is that area of the bridge between Piers 9 and 10, some 145 feet in length, and located just to the right (proceeding upstream) of the marked center portion of the channel.

 7. That portion of the Potomac River which passes under Span 10 of the above-mentioned Center Highway Bridge constitutes part of the navigable waters of the United States.

 8. The passage under Span 10 is approximately 133 feet wide. The defendant's barge, approximately 93 feet long and moored lengthwise, was set back several feet from the edge of the pier ends and under the overhead roadway.

 9. The barge was moored in this location to await the commencement of work under Span 10 which was scheduled to begin September 8, 1970, after the Labor Day weekend.

 10. The defendant had equipped the barge with four yellow flashing road warning lights, one in each corner. The Court finds that these lights were operating at the time of the collision and constituted the only illumination of the barge.

 11. On the night of September 4, 1970, plaintiff Petersen operated his boat upstream on the Potomac on a course just to the right of the marked portion of the channel. Plaintiff Schickram accompanied him seated to ...


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