B-125556, NOV. 2, 1955

B-125556: Nov 2, 1955

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THE CLAIM IS FOR REFUND OF THE HOSPITAL EXPENSES FOR FOREIGN SEAMAN JOHANNES VARTIAINEN WHICH WERE PAID TO THE UNITED STATES COLLECTOR OF CUSTOMS IN NEW YORK ON OCTOBER 5. WAS TAKEN OFF THE VESSEL AT ARUBA. BECAUSE THE FACILITIES IN ARUBA WERE INADEQUATE FOR THE TYPE OF TREATMENT REQUIRED BY THE SEAMAN. THE SEAMAN WAS HOSPITALIZED FROM JANUARY 8. THE OFFICE OF THE NORWEGIAN CONSUL GENERAL WAS BILLED FOR THE SEAMAN'S HOSPITAL CARE ON A REGULAR MONTHLY BASIS IN ACCORDANCE WITH HOSPITAL PROCEDURES. THE BILL FOR THE MONTH OF JANUARY 1952 WAS PAID. PAYMENT WAS MADE UNDER PROTEST BY YOUR FIRM IN BEHALF OF SORENSON AND SONNER IN ORDER TO SECURE THE RELEASE OF THE AINO AFTER A CLAIM WAS FILED AGAINST THE OWNERS OF THE VESSEL WITH THE COLLECTOR OF CUSTOMS.

B-125556, NOV. 2, 1955

TO PYNE, LYNCH AND SMITH, ATTORNEYS AT LAW:

YOUR LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 6, 1955, REQUESTS RECONSIDERATION OF OUR SETTLEMENT DATED AUGUST 18, 1955, WHICH DISALLOWED THE CLAIM OF C. H. SORENSON AND SONNER IN THE AMOUNT OF $1,762.25. THE CLAIM IS FOR REFUND OF THE HOSPITAL EXPENSES FOR FOREIGN SEAMAN JOHANNES VARTIAINEN WHICH WERE PAID TO THE UNITED STATES COLLECTOR OF CUSTOMS IN NEW YORK ON OCTOBER 5, 1953, TO SECURE CLEARANCE OF THE VESSEL M. T. AINO.

THE RECORD SHOWS THAT FOREIGN SEAMAN JOHANNES VARTIAINEN, EMPLOYED ON THE NORWEGIAN VESSEL M. T. AINO, OWNED BY C. H. SORENSON AND SONNER OF ARONDAL, NORWAY, WAS TAKEN OFF THE VESSEL AT ARUBA, B.W.I., ON JANUARY 1, 1952, BECAUSE OF ILLNESS. IT APPEARS THAT THE OWNER OR MASTER OF THE VESSEL MADE ARRANGEMENTS WITH THE NORWEGIAN VICE CONSUL AT ARUBA TO ACT FOR THEM IN CONNECTION WITH THE SEAMAN'S CARE. BECAUSE THE FACILITIES IN ARUBA WERE INADEQUATE FOR THE TYPE OF TREATMENT REQUIRED BY THE SEAMAN, THE NORWEGIAN CONSULAR AUTHORITIES ARRANGED FOR HIS TRANSFER TO THE UNITED STATES PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE HOSPITAL IN STATEN ISLAND AND OBTAINED A VISA FROM THE AMERICAN CONSULATE AT ARUBA FOR THIS PURPOSE. THE SEAMAN WAS HOSPITALIZED FROM JANUARY 8, 1952, UNTIL JUNE 13, 1952. THE OFFICE OF THE NORWEGIAN CONSUL GENERAL WAS BILLED FOR THE SEAMAN'S HOSPITAL CARE ON A REGULAR MONTHLY BASIS IN ACCORDANCE WITH HOSPITAL PROCEDURES. THE BILL FOR THE MONTH OF JANUARY 1952 WAS PAID. C. H. SORENSON AND SONNER REFUSED TO PAY BILLS SUBMITTED BY THE HOSPITAL FROM FEBRUARY 1, 1952, TO JUNE 13, 1952, ALLEGING THAT IT HAD NO RESPONSIBILITY WITH RESPECT TO MR. VARTIAINEN AFTER FEBRUARY 12, 1952, BECAUSE NORWEGIAN LAW REQUIRED IT TO PAY HIS HOSPITAL EXPENSES FOR ONLY SIX WEEKS. PAYMENT WAS MADE UNDER PROTEST BY YOUR FIRM IN BEHALF OF SORENSON AND SONNER IN ORDER TO SECURE THE RELEASE OF THE AINO AFTER A CLAIM WAS FILED AGAINST THE OWNERS OF THE VESSEL WITH THE COLLECTOR OF CUSTOMS, NEW YORK. THE CLAIM FOR REFUND OF THE $1,762.25 WAS DISALLOWED BY SETTLEMENT DATED AUGUST 18, 1955, FOR THE REASON THAT THE UNITED STATES IS NOT BOUND BY THE LAWS OF NORWAY WHICH LIMIT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE VESSEL OWNERS TO A SIX WEEKS' PERIOD OF HOSPITALIZATION.

SECTION 322 (B) OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE ACT, JULY 1, 1944, 58 STAT. 696, PROVIDES AS FOLLOWS:

"WHEN SUITABLE ACCOMMODATIONS ARE AVAILABLE, SEAMEN ON FOREIGN-FLAG VESSELS MAY BE GIVEN MEDICAL, SURGICAL, AND DENTAL TREATMENT AND HOSPITALIZATION ON APPLICATION OF THE MASTER, OWNER, OR AGENT OF THE VESSEL AT HOSPITALS AND OTHER STATIONS OF THE SERVICE AT RATES FIXED BY REGULATIONS. ALL EXPENSES CONNECTED WITH SUCH TREATMENT, INCLUDING BURIAL IN THE EVENT OF DEATH, SHALL BE PAID BY SUCH MASTER, OWNER, OR AGENT. SUCH VESSEL SHALL BE GRANTED CLEARANCE UNTIL SUCH EXPENSES ARE PAID OR THEIR PAYMENT APPROPRIATELY GUARANTEED TO THE COLLECTOR OF CUSTOMS.'

YOU CONTEND THAT SINCE JOHANNES VARTIAINEN WAS SIGNED OFF THE AINO AT ARUBA, HE WAS NOT A SEAMAN EMPLOYED ON A FOREIGN VESSEL AT THE TIME OF HIS ENTRY INTO THE HOSPITAL AS CONTEMPLATED BY SECTION 322 (B) AND THAT SINCE ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE ADMISSION OF THE SEAMAN INTO THE UNITED STATES PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE HOSPITAL AT STATEN ISLAND, NEW YORK, WERE MADE BY THE FINNISH CONSULATE GENERAL, WHO HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE NORWEGIAN OWNERS OF THE AINO, THERE WAS NO APPLICATION FOR HIS HOSPITALIZATION BY THE MASTER, OWNER, OR AGENT OF THE AINO. THEREFORE, YOU SUBMIT THAT THE OWNER OF THE AINO SHOULD NOT BE HELD LIABLE UNDER SECTION 322 (B) FOR THE COST OF HOSPITALIZATION.

CONCERNING YOUR CONTENTION THAT JOHANNES VARTIAINEN WAS NOT A SEAMAN EMPLOYED ON A FOREIGN VESSEL, THE RECORD SHOWS THE REASON FOR HIS REMOVAL FROM THE VESSEL WAS FOR THE PURPOSE OF HOSPITALIZATION AND THE HOSPITAL BILLS WERE VOLUNTARILY PAID BY THE OWNERS FOR THE FIRST SIX WEEKS WHICH SHOWS THEY CONSIDERED THEMSELVES RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CARE OF THE SEAMAN. IT REASONABLY APPEARS THAT THE ASSUMPTION OF SUCH AN OBLIGATION ON THE PART OF THE VESSEL OWNERS WAS IN RECOGNITION OF THE FACT THAT THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE SEAMAN AND THEM AS OWNERS OF THE VESSEL HAD NOT TERMINATED AT THE TIME HE WAS SIGNED OFF THE VESSEL AT ARUBA. ALSO, IT APPEARS FROM THE RECORD THAT ALL ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE SEAMAN'S CARE WERE MADE BY THE NORWEGIAN VICE-CONSUL AND THAT THE FINNISH CONSULATE WAS KEPT ADVISED OF DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CASE BECAUSE THE SEAMAN WAS A FINNISH CITIZEN.

SO FAR AS CONCERNS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE FINNISH CONSULATE GENERAL RESPECTING THE ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE ADMISSION OF THE SEAMAN TO THE HOSPITAL, OUR RECORDS CONTAIN CORRESPONDENCE FROM THE FINNISH CONSULATE GENERAL WHICH STATES:

"VARTIAINEN WAS SENT TO THE UNITED STATES BY THE M/T "AINO," (OWNED BY C. H. SORENSEN AND SONNER, ARENDAL, NORWAY), AND THE NORWEGIAN CONSULAR AUTHORITIES IN ARUBA TO RECEIVE HOSPITAL TREATMENT, DUE TO THE FACT THAT SUITABLE INSTRUMENTS FOR A CASE OF HIS TYPE WERE NOT AVAILABLE IN ARUBA. THE AMERICAN CONSULATE GRANTED HIM A VISA FOR THIS PURPOSE. THIS HAS BEEN VERIFIED BY THE NORWEGIAN CONSULAR AUTHORITIES TO THIS CONSULATE GENERAL IN THEIR LETTER OF JULY 1, 1952.'

IT IS CLEAR FROM THE ABOVE QUOTED LETTER THAT THE NORWEGIAN CONSULAR AUTHORITIES HAVE ACKNOWLEDGED FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR ARRANGING FOR THE SEAMAN'S CARE ON BEHALF OF THE MASTER OR OWNERS OF THE SHIP. ACCORDINGLY, IT IS OUR VIEW THAT THE MASTER OR OWNERS OF THE SHIP ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE HOSPITAL EXPENSES OF THE SEAMAN UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE ABOVE QUOTED PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE ACT, AND THE SETTLEMENT OF AUGUST 18, 1955, DISALLOWING THE CLAIM IS SUSTAINED.