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UNITED STATES EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION,
New York, N. Y., July 17, 1944. CAAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON CLAIMS,
United States Senate, Washington, D. C. DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: Reference is made to your request for the Commission's report upon the bill (S. 1959) for the relief of Mrs. Amy McKnight. The bill provides:
“That sections 15 to 20, inclusive, of the Act entitled 'An Act to provide compensation for employees of the United States suffering injuries while in the performance of their duties, and for other purposes,' approved September 7, 1916, as amended, are hereby waived in favor of Mrs. Amy McKnight, widow of George McKnight, a former employee of the War Department at Fort Peck, Mont. whose death on February 20, 1936, is alleged to have resulted from pneumonia contracted while in the performance of duty prior to February 12, 1936, and the United States Employees' Compensation Commission is authorized to receive and consider her claim under the remaining provisions of the said Act: Provided, That claim hereunder shall be filed within six months from the approval of this Act: Provided further, That no benefits shall accrue prior to the approval of this Act.”
The first information which the Commission has any record of receiving relative to the death of George McKnight was contained in a letter received by the Commission on March 15, 1938, from Mrs. Amy McKnight wherein she indicated that she was seeking to procure benefits as the result of the death of her husband from pneumonia which she alleged as having resulted from exposure while he (George McKnight) was in the employ of the Government. Subsequent reports received by the Commission in this
case stated that George McKnight was employed as a carpenter by the War Department (United States engineers office) at Fort Peck, Mont., and that his death on February 20, 1936, resulted from pneumonia. The nature of his exposure, if any, was reported as not known by his official superior. The latter's report contained merely a reference to the widow's allegation that such “pneumonia (was) due to exposure while working as a carpenter in the construction of the diversion tunnels.” The reported cause of death was "right lobar pneumonia.” Other information submitted indicates the absence of unhealthful working conditions at the place where the deceased was employed; that the incidence of pneumonia at Fort Peck was not confined to tunnel workers, and that the disease was prevalent throughout the State. Present evidence seems to indicate prima facie, at least, that there was no causal relationship between the death and the employment conditions, although this question the Commission has not determined.
Since it did not appear that Mrs. McKnight had filed written claim for death benefits within 1 year from the date thereof, as required by the mandatory provisions of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act of September 7, 1916, the Commission was without authority of law to consider the merits of her case, and she was so advised by letter dated July 6, 1938.
Since, for the reason stated above, the Commission had no authority to award compensation in this case, no inquiry or determination was made relative to the merits of the case.
The bill (S. 1959) is designed merely to waive in favor of Mrs. Amy McKnight the bar of the time limitations contained in sections 15 to 20, both inclusive, of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act of September 7, 1916, and to leave the Commission free to determine the merits of her claim, when filed, and to afford her such measure of relief as the facts, when established, may show her to be entitled to under the provisions of the Compensation Act. Any statements of fact in the bill are interpreted as descriptive only and not as intended to be legislative fact determinations. Under the bill no benefits would accrue prior to approval of the measure.
In view of the foregoing, the Commission makes no recommendation as to the advisability of the enactment of the bill, S. 1959.
This report has been submitted to the Bureau of the Budget pursuant to Budget Circular No. 390, dated June 1, 1942, and has been returned with the advice that there would be no objection to the submission thereof to the committee. Very truly yours,
(Mrs.) JEWELL W. SWOFFORD,
FEBRUARY 13, 1945.-Committed to the Committee of the Whole House and
ordered to be printed
Mr. RAMEY, from the Committee on Claims, submitted the following
(To accompany S. 410)
The Committee on Claims, to whom was referred the bill (S. 410) for the relief of Marino Bello, having considered the same, report favorably thereon without amendment and recommend that the bill do pass.
A similar bill was favorably reported by this committee in the Seventy-eighth Congress.
The facts will be found fully set forth in Senate Report No. 31, Seventy-ninth Congress, which is appended hereto and made a part of this report.
Your committee concur in the recommendation of the Senate.
18. Rept. No. 31, 79th Cong., 1st sess.) The Committee on Claims, to whom was referred the bill (S. 1483) for the relief of Marino Bello, having considered the same, report favorably thereon and recommend that the bill do pass with the following amendment.
Line 6, strike out the figures "$5,233” and insert in lieu thereof the figures "$2,333”.
The purpose of the proposed legislation is to pay to Marino Bello, of Los Angeles, Calif., the sum of $2,333 in full satisfaction of his claims against the United States for (1) compensation for personal injuries sustained by him, (2) reimbursement of medical expenses incurred, and (3) damage to his automobile as a result of an accident which occurred when his automobile was struck by a United States Army vehicle on January 29, 1942.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
The report of the War Department states that on January 29, 1942, at about 9:30 a. m., an Army reconnaissance car, operated by an enlisted man on official business, was proceeding south on Alameda Street, in Los Angeles, Calif., and approaching the intersection of Alameda and Aliso Streets. The intersection in question was protected by a traffic light, which at the time was green for north, and south-bound traffic. There was also a civilian policeman directing traffic from the north side of the intersection. After the Army vehicle had entered the intersection it was stopped by the policeman to permit a civilian truck, northbound.on Alameda Street, to execute a left turn onto Aliso Street. After the civilian truck had passed, the Army driver observed that the policeman lowered his upraised arm and, interpreting this movement as a signal to continue, resúmed his course across the intersection. In the meantime the traffic light had changed and, before the crossing was completed, was green for traffic on Aliso Street. A 1941 Ford coupe owned and operated by Marino Bello, 133 North Crescent Heights Boulevard, Los Angeles, Calif., had been stopped at the light on Aliso Street, headed in an easterly direction. As the light changed, the civilian driver immediately started forward, and his vision having been partly obscured by the civilian truck that had just turned left, crashed into the right rear of the Army vehicle and overturned it. Substantial damage was done to the civilian vehicle, and Mr. Bello sustained personal injuries which required an X-ray examination, 26 visits to his doctor, and a course of physiotherapy.
The War Department is not in favor of the proposed legislation. The opinion of the investigating officer (as stated in the War Department's report to your committee) is that the “accident was caused in part at least by the claimant's negligence.
No definite evidence of negligence on the part of the Army driver is apparent,”
Your committee cannot agree with this opinion for while the affidavits of the witnesses differ as to who had the right-of-way the officer who was directing traffic at this intersection in his signed statement averred that “the entire responsibility for this accident rests on the sergeant operating the Army jeep. Operator of '41 Ford was in no manner responsible.”
The driver of the Army vehicle admitted that when the traffic officer's arm came down he took it to be a motion waving him through. The driver of the civilian car (claimant) stated that the jeep came through the red light and against the policeman's signal.
After carefully considering all the facts and circumstances in the case, your committee feel that Mr. Bello's claim is meritorious and accordingly recommend that he be awarded $2,333—$2,000 for personal injuries, $308 for medical expenses resulting from the accident, and $25 for property damage not covered by insurance.
Attached are the report of the War Department and physician's affidavit.
Washington, D. C., February 8, 1944. Hon. ALLEN J. ELLENDER, Chairman, Committee on Claims,
United States Senate. DEAR SENATOR ELLENDER: The War Department is opposed to the enactment of S. 1483, Seventy-eighth Congress, which would authorize and direct the Secretary of the Treasury to pay “to Marino Bello, of Los Angeles, Calif., the sum of $5,233, in full satisfaction of his claims against the United States for (1) compensation for personal injuries sustained by him, (2) reimbursement of medical expenses incurred by him because of such injuries, and (3) damage to his automobile, as a result of an accident which occurred when his automobile was struck by a United States Army vehicle at the intersection of Aliso and Alamedo (Alameda) Streets in Los Angeles, Calif.”
January 29, 1942, at about 9:30 a. m., an Army reconnaissance car, operated by an enlisted man on official business, was proceeding south on Alameda Street, in Los Angeles, Calif., and approaching the intersection of Alameda and Aliso Streets. The intersection in question was protected by a traffic light, which at the time was green for north- and south-bound traffic. There was also a civilian policeman directing traffic from the north side of the intersection. After the Army vehicle had entered the intersection it was stopped by the policeman to Dermit a civilian truck, north-bound on Alameda Street, to execute a left turn onto Aliso Street. After the civilian truck had passed, the Army driver observed that the policeman lowered his upraised arm and, interpreting this movement As a signal to continue, resumed his course across the intersection. In the meantime the traffic light had changed and, before the crossing was completed, was green for traffic on Aliso Street. A 1941 Ford coupe owned and operated by Marino Bello, 133 North Crescent Heights Boulevard, Los Angeles, Calif., had been stopped at the light on Aliso Street, headed in an easterly direction. As the light changed the civilian driver immediately started forward and, his vision having been partly obscured by the civilian truck that had just turned left, crashed into the right rear of the Army vehicle and overturned it. Substantial
damage was done to the civilian vehicle, and Mr. Bello sustained personal injuries which required an X-ray examination, 26 visits to his doctor, and a course of physiotherapy treatments.
The Army driver, in a statement dated May 13, 1942, said: “I had been driving at a speed of about 25 miles per hour, going south on Alameda Street, and slowed down as I approached the intersection of Aliso Street. The signal light was green, and I could have gone right on through, but a large truck was coming north on Alameda Street, and the traffic officer there motioned me back to allow the truck to make a left turn. I shifted into second gear, already well into the intersection, and as the”truck cleared the intersection the officer's arm came down and I took it to be a motion waving me through, for although the light had already changed to amber, I was already into the intersection and either had to back out or go through,
"When about three-quarters of the way through the intersection a civilian car, driven by Mr. Bello, struck the right side of my vehicle, turning it over and throwing Lieutenant MacDonald and myself to the pavement. This happened so quickly that I cannot say how fast the civilian car was traveling, but the impact was enough to upset the jeep. Both cars were damaged by the collision, and I received a wrenched shoulder when thrown to the pavement. The weather was clear and dry at the time, and the roadway good."
On January 30, 1942, First Lt. John N. MacDonald, who was a passenger in the Army vehicle at the time of the accident, made the following statement:
“The Government vehicle, moving south on Alameda Street, had slowed to permit another car to make a left turn, and proceeding immediately behind the foregoing was halfway across the intersection when the signals changed. The civilian car moving east on Aliso Street then struck the right side, denting it and shattering its windshield. Damage to the Ford consisted of a crushed hood and dented radiator."
The civilian police report of the accident contains the following statement:
“No. 1 (civilian driver) was stopped at intersection of Alameda headed east on Aliso; as he entered intersection, he struck right side of No. 2 (Army driver) who was headed south on Alameda. After impact No. 2 traveled approximately 30 feet and turned over. No. 1 left 3 feet of 4-wheel skid marks at point of impact. Signals were working at time and were just changing or had just changed before accident occurred. Witnesses' statements vary as to condition of signals at time both parties entered intersection. There is a service station on northwest corner which is set back from the sidewalk, giving a clear view of intersection for south- and east-bound traffic.
After accident, No. 1 seemed to be shaken but he walked around and showed no apparent injury, although he complained that he didn't know whether his back would be all right or not.”
A. R. McClanahan, police officer, who was directing traffic at the intersection where the accident occurred, made the following statement which was included in the police report:
"Before accident traffic was moving north and south. I held up south-bound traffic for a north-bound truck to make a left turn. This truck had cleared intersection and signal had changed to 'go' for east and west traffic. I saw No. 2 (Army driver) approaching intersection as I was turning around facing south. I had my hands up to indicate traffic to start east and west. As I was turning around No. 2 was 100 to 150 feet north of intersection. He came by me, traveling in south-bound cartracks at approximately 35 miles per hour, and No. 1 (civilian driver)
, east-bound, who had just started up, struck him at point I indicated to investigating officers."
Charles Floyd, 246 Aliso Street, who was a bystander at the time of the accident, stated to the civilian police investigator:
"I was standing at southwest corner at time of accident looking north; there was a Chinaman in a vegetable truck on Aliso Street, headed east, who pulled out and made right turn to go south on Alameda and I think this east-bound car thought the signals had changed and started to move out east-bound. In my opinion, the light was green for south-bound car or had just changed to amber about time the Army jeep entered intersection.”
A. F. Blanchard, a pedestrian who was at the intersection at the time the accident occurred, in a statement dated May 1942 said:
"I was standing on the northeast corner of Alameda and Aliso Streets, waiting for the signal to change to 'go' for the east- and west-bound traffic. When they changed, I started to cross to the west side of Alameda and was about 10 feet from
the curb when I looked up and saw an Army jeep come south on Alameda
and go through the red light and was hit by a civilian car which was going east on Aliso with the green light in his direction.”
The civilian driver, Mr. Marino Bello, made the following statement on May 12, 1942:
as I was driving my 1941 Ford coupe east on Aliso Street, I was stopped at Alameda for a signal. After the signal had changed to 'go' or green in my favor, the policeman had whistled and motioned for traffic to go across the street.
"I, Marino Bello, placed my car in gear and started across the street. When I was more than one-half way across the intersection, a United States Army jeep truck
came through the red light and against the policeman's signal and struck my car in the left side with such force that it caused the jeep to overturn completely.
“The jeep was traveling on the wrong side of the street and nearly struck the policeman. I did not see the jeep coming through, as traffic had stopped for the signal, until he entered the intersection. At that time it was too late for me to do anything, as the truck was into my car.
On March 9, 1942, A. R. McClanahan, the traffic policeman who was on duty at the intersection at the time the accident occurred, in answer to a questionnaire, stated:
“(1) Where were you at the time of collision?-A. Standing in center of pedestrian's cross walk, north side of Aliso Street at Alameda Street.
“(2) What first attracted your attention to the car involved in the accident? A. Sound of the motor and speed of the Army jeep.
"(3) In what direction was each vehicle traveling?—A. Army jeep traveling south on Alameda Street, '41 Ford traveling east on Aliso Street.
“(4) How fast was each vehicle moving ?-A. Army jeep, 40 to 45 miles per hour; '41 Ford, 6 to 8 miles per hour.
"(9) In your opinion, who was at fault? Why?-A. Army jeep. 1. Failed to obey yellow warning light and red stop light. 2. Failed to obey my arm signal and whistle to stop.
"(11) What was said by parties after the collision?-A. Sergeant operating Army jeep said he did not see signal and thought he had right-of-way. Operator of '41 Ford complained of shock and pain in back.
"(12) State whether any signals or warnings were given and if so by whom and how far from the point of collision.-A. The Army jeep ran through red stop signal and disregarded my whistle and arm signal to stop. The entire responsibility for this accident rests on the sergeant operating the Army jeep. Operator of '41 Ford was in no manner responsible.”
The report of the investigating officer, submitted in May 1942, states that the responsibility for the accident was "that of the civilian driver, as all evidence points to negligence on his part in not exercising due caution before entering intersection.
The report also contains the following remarks:
“Statements of civilian driver at the scene of the accident do not coincide with his sworn statements made several weeks later. To wit, in his sworn statement he claims that the Army vehicle struck his car broadside, when the opposite was the case according to Government witnesses and the report of the traffic policeman at the intersection. Also, the garage bill shows repairs to the right rear fender of the claimant's car and attached diagram shows that such damage was impossible under the circumstances. Evidence seems to point to a previous or subsequent accident. Attention is called to the fact that witnesses' testimony for the claimant is made out on a prefabricated form.'
It was the opinion of the investigating officer that "the accident was caused, in part at least, by the claimant's negligence. To wit, evidence seems to indicate that he did not wait for all north- and
south-bound traffic on Alameda Street to clear before starting across the intersection, and the truck turning west into Aliso Street completely blocked his vision of any vehicle coming south on Alameda.”
The board of officers which carefully investigated the accident made the following findings:
"Evidence indicates that (Army driver) had entered the intersection prior to the light (signal) changing to amber (warning light), that he was traveling at a legal and proper rate of speed, and in the proper lane of traffio. No definite evidence of negligence on the part of (Army driver) is apparent.