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OSCAR GRIGGS

FEBRUARY 22, 1945.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House and

ordered to be printed

Mr. PITTENGER, from the Committee on Claims, submitted the

following

REPORT

[To accompany S. 177)

The Committee on Claims, to whom was referred the bill (S. 177) for the relief of Oscar Griggs, having considered the same, report favorably thereon without amendment and recommend that the bill

do pass.

The facts will be found fully set forth in Senate Report No. 5, Seventy-ninth Congress, which is appended hereto and made a part of this report.

Your committee concur in the recommendation of the Senate.

(S. Rept. No. 5, 79th Cong., 1st sess.) An identical bill passed the Senate in the Seventy-eighth Congress.

The facts are fully set forth in Senate Report No. 1358, Seventy-eighth Congress, second session, which is appended hereto and made a part of this report.

(8. Rept. No. 1358, 78th Cong., 2d sess.) The Committee on Claims, to whom was referred the bill (8. 1885) for the relief of Oscar Griggs, having considered the same, report favorably thereon and recommend that the bill do pass, with the following amendment:

Line 6, strike out the figures “$15,000” and insert in lieu thereof the figures “$4,505.14”.

Line 8, after the fourth word insert "and for medical and hospital expenses incurred.

The purpose of the proposed legislation is to compensate Oscar Griggs, of Lauderdale County, Tenn., the sum of $4,505.14 for personal injuries sustained by him, and for medical and hospital expenses incurred, as a result of being shot by soldiers of the United States Army, when in the performance of his duties as sheriff.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

The report of the War Department states that on the evening of December 29, 1943, a group of between 30 and 40 Negro soldiers from the Dyersburg Army Airfield were away from their posts of duty in the town of Ripley, Tenn. Most of the soldiers were either drunk or drinking and were congregated in the colored section of the town where they were creating a disturbance. No military police

H. Repts., 79-1, vol. 1-72

had been detailed to Ripley for the purpose of maintaining order among military personnel in the town and the town night watchman, M. C. Brooks, requested Oscar Griggs, sheriff of Lauderdale County Tenn., to assist him in quieting the disturbance. Sheriff Griggs thereupon immediately called the guardhouse at the Army Airfield at Dyersburg and asked that military police be sent to Ripley.

He and the night watchman then, at about 11 p. m., armed themselves with shotguns and proceeded to the scene of the disturbance in Sheriff Griggs' automobile. The soldiers failed to disperse when ordered to do so by Mr. Brooks and one of them engaged him in conversation while he was disarmed by others who came up from his rear. During the resulting melee the night watchman was kicked and struck with bricks and stones. Pvt. Joseph L. Burrell, the enlisted man who had gained possession of Mr. Brooks' gun, then approached Sheriff Griggs with threats and curses and fired a shot which took effect in the sheriff's stomach and chest. Thereupon Sheriff Griggs also opened fire and a number of shots were exchanged. Five of the soldiers then seized the sheriff's automobile and drove Private Burrell, who was seriously wounded, to the base hospital, Dyersburg Army Airfield.' Private Burrell died on December 30, 1943, as a result of his injuries. First aid was rendered to Sheriff Griggs by Dr. J. R. Lewis, of Ripley, and he was thereupon promptly removed by ambulance to the Baptist Memorial Hospital at Memphis, Tenn., where he remained under treatment until January - 16, 1944.

Dr. R. L. Sanders, of Memphis, Tenn., who treated Sheriff Griggs at the Baptist Memorial Hospital, made the following statement on June 9, 1944:

"'Sheriff Griggs has been shot at close range 2 hours previously, The middle and ring fingers of his left hand had been shot off at the first joint; his right hand, wrist, and forearm were seriously damaged; there was also great damage to the skin of his right arm above the elbow and his chest, and there were a few shot over the abdomen which had not penetrated deeper than the skin.

"Examination on his admission to the hospital revealed multiple fractures of the fingers of the right hand and of the carpal bones. The skin on the back of the hand and over most of the palm was almost completely destroyed. Several tendons of the right hand and wrist had been torn and part of them had been blown away by the shot. There were many shot in the skin of the hand, arm, chest, and abdomen.

“Sheriff Griggs was given immediate surgical treatment as follows: The index finger of the right hand, together with many pieces of bone, was removed and the damaged tendons which were completely devitalized were cut away, and the remaining tendons were repaired. There was a compound fracture of the bones of the right thumb, which was reduced. A large part of the skin of the right hand was cut away and the remaining part utilized to cover partially the soft parts. The blood vessels were badly damaged but not completely destroyed, and the blood supply was sufficient to nourish the remaining fingers. The middle and ring fingers of the left hand were amputated below the first joint. The areas over the right arm, chest, and abdomen where the shot had penetrated the skin were treated locally; the shot were not removed. He was in extreme shock from blood loss, tissue damage, and trauma, and it was necessary to give plasma and whole blood in order to prepare him for operation. The operation was rather long and tedious, but his condition was satisfactory at its conclusion. His convalescence was gradual, but without disturbance. He left the hospital on January 16, 1944. The wound of the right hand had not healed, but was treated constantly until a short time ago. There is still one area which has not completely healed.

"Today, Sheriff Griggs' middle, ring, and little fingers and thumb of the right hand are so stiff and lacking in flexibility as to be of little service for any type of work. They have been treated by massage and manipulation and are some what improved, but their function will be permanently and seriously impaired. The left hand is in very good condition, but there is some disability because of the loss of the two fingers. The condition of his chest, arm, and abdomen is satisfactory, though many shot remain. There is still one shot in his face beneath the eye, which will probably have to be removed. An X-ray of the right hand made this date shows the fracture of the thumb healed with a slight angulation. The thumb is fixed at its base and moves but little. The index finger is completely gone. The bones of the middle finger are essentially normal. The carpal bones are in fairly good condition except for an inflammatory fixation in places. The wrist joint appears normal. There are many lead markings about the thumb, carpal bones, and soft parts, and extending up the arm to the elbow. A dozen or more shot are present.

"Summing the case up at the present time, I should say that Sheriff Griggs' general physical condition is reasonably satisfactory. There is 10 percent or more disability in his left hand, and between 65 and 90 percent disability in his right hand, which will be permanent.”

On June 14, 1944, Sheriff Griggs was examined by Capt. Raymond Heiligman, Medical Corps, at the station hospital, Dyersburg Army Airfield, who made the following statement:

“This is to certify that today, June 14, 1944, at station hospital, Army airfield, Dyersburg, Tenn.,'I examined Sheriff Oscar Griggs of Ripley, Tenn. This man was shot twice on December 29, 1943, by 12-gage shotgun while performing his duty. He had been hit in the face, chest, right arm, forearm, and hand, also left hand. Examination of left hand revealed amputations of the distal phalanges of the middle and right fingers of left hand. Aside from disability complete by loss of these two phalanges, hand function is normal. Estimated loss of function left hand, 20 percent. Examination of face revealed the presence of a shot in the soft tissues below right eye. Visual test showed 20/20 vision in each eye. The presence of this piece of lead causes intermittent swelling and inflammation of this part and should be removed. Examination of right arm revealed shot under skin over biceps muscle; there is no impairment of function. Examination of forearm and hand revealed loss of 20° of supination of wrist, loss of 10° to 15° of dosiflexion and palmar flexion of wrist. There is a large mass of scar tissue over the dorsal lateral surface of right hand. There is evidence that infiammatory process is still active and scar has recently broken down. Motion of thumb is markedly impaired, right index finger and three-quarters of second metacarpal bone are missing. There is marked loss of function of the third, fourth, and fifth fingers. Opponens function of the right hand is not possible. Sensory examination shows marked disturbance and loss of sensation involving thumb and middle finger.

"X-ray shows approximately 22 pieces of lead in forearm and 12 in hand. Estimated loss of function of right hand and wrist, 75 to 80 percent. I believe that while there may be some return of function there will be a residual loss of function from 70 to 75 percent of the right hand.”

The records of the War Department show that as a result of his injuries Mr. Griggs incurred medical and hospital expenses in the aggregate amount of $505.14.

In addition, Mr. Griggs has been advised that further surgical operations will be necessary for removal of the shot in his right eye and for skin grafting over exposed nerves in his right hand.

At the time he was injured Oscar Griggs was 39 years of age and the following persons were entirely dependent upon him for their support:

Mrs. Avannah Griggs, wife; daughter, age 14; son, age 11; son, age 272; daughter age 8 months; father, age 78; mother, age 68.

The evidence fairly establishes that the personal injuries sustained by Oscar Griggs were not caused by any fault or negligence on his part, but were caused by the acts of members of the United States Army, who were under the influence of intoxicating liquor and conducting themselves in a riotous manner. These soldiers were off duty at the time; they were not on military premises and were not engaged in any business for the Army. It is a well-established principle of law that an employer is not liable for the acts of his employees when such employees are acting outside the scope of their employment. Under the circumstances, the United States is not legally responsible for the damages sustained by Mr. Griggs. If, nevertheless, the Congress should conclude to grant relief to Mr. Griggs, the amount of the proposed award, $15,000, is believed to be excessive. Should relief be granted it is recommended that the bill be so amended as to provide for an award to Mr. Griggs in an amount not exceeding the sum of $4,505.14 ($505.14 for medical and hospital expenses; and $1,000 for personal injuries).

Your committee concur in the recommendation of the War Department and have amended the bill accordingly. Appended is the report of the War Department, together with claimant's affidavit. Additional papers are on file in the office of the Secretary of the Senate.

WAR DEPARTMENT,

Washington, October 21, 1944. Hon. ALLEN J. ELLENDER,

Chairman, Committee on Claims, United States Senate. DEAR SENATOR ELLENDER: Your letter of May 4, 1944, requests the report of the War Department on S. 1885, Seventy-eighth Congress, a bill for the relief of Oscar Griggs, which would authorize and direct the Secretary of the Treasury to pay to Oscar Griggs, of Lauderdale County, Tenn., the sum of $15,000, in full satisfaction of his claim against the United States for compensation for personal injuries sustained by him when he was shot on the night of December 29, 1943, by members of a party of soldiers of the United States Army, whe.., in the performance of his duties as sheriff of Lauderdale County, Tenn., he was attempt ing to quiet a disturbance by such soldiers in the town of Ripley, Tenn.

On the evening of December 29, 1943, a group of between 30 and 40 Negro soldiers from the Dyersburg Army Air Field, Dyersburg, Tenn., were away from their posts of duty in the town of Ripley, Tenn. Most of the soldiers were either drunk or drinking and were congregated in the colored section of the town where they were creating a disturbance. No military police had been detailed to Ripley for the purpose of maintaining order among military personnel in the town, and the town night watchman, M. C. Brooks, requested Oscar Griggs, sheriff of Lauderdale County, Tenn., to assist him in quieting the disturbance. Sheriff Griggs thereupon immediately called the guardhouse at the Army Air Field at Dyersburg and asked that military police be sent to Ripley. He and the night watchman then, at about 11 p. m., armed themselves with shotguns and proceeded to the scene of the disturbance in Sheriff Griggs' automobile. The soldiers failed to disperse when ordered to do so by Mr. Brooks and one of them engaged him in conversation while he was disarmed by others who came up from his rear. During the resulting melee the night watchman was kicked and ruck with bricks and stones. Pvt. Joseph L. Burrell, the enlisted man who had gained possession of Mr. Brooks' gun then approached Sheriff Griggs with threats and curses and fired a shot which took effect in the sheriff's stomach and chest. Thereupon Sheriff Griggs also opened fire and a number of shots were exchanged. Five of the soldiers then seized the sheriff's automobile and drove Private Burrell, who was seriously wounded, to the base hospital, Dyersburg Army Air Field. Private Burrell died on December 30, 1943, as a result of his injuries. First-aid was rendered to Sheriff Griggs by Dr. J. R. Lewis, of Ripley, and he was thereupon promptly removed by ambulance to the Baptist Memorial Hospital at Memphis, Tenn., where he remained under treatment until January 16, 1944.

On April 6, 1944, Dr. Lewis made the following statement regarding his treatment of Sheriff Griggs:

"I went into the house and there I found Sheriff Griggs lying on a bed. He was bleeding profusely from the wounds in his right and left hands. I immediately placed a tourniquet above the wrist on his right hand to stop the flow of blood. I then continued my examination of the sheriff's body and found several shots in his left hand and the nails had been shot off two of his fingers just like someone had taken a hammer and knocked them off. He had been shot in the chest and had three glancing shots in the abdomen. I gave him a big shot of morphine and atropine. I then dressed Sheriff Griggs' wounds and put him in the ambulance

"In my opinion, based on my observation of Sheriff Griggs' wounds as of the early morning of December 30, 1943, he will live. As to permanent disability, it is further my opinion that if his right hand is saved it will be stiff for the rest of his life and will be of little, if any, use to him. I do not believe that he will suffer any other permanent disability.”

Dr. R. L. Sanders, of Memphis, Tenn., who treated Sheriff Griggs at the Baptist Memorial Hospital made the following statement on June 9, 1944:

"Sheriff Griggs had been shot at close range 2 hours previously. The middle and ring fingers of his left hand had been shot off at the first joint, his right hand, wrist, and forearm were seriously damaged, there was also great damage to the skin of his right arm above the elbow, and his chest, and there were a few shot over the abdomen which had not penetrated deeper than the skin.

“Examination on his admission to the hospital revealed multiple fractures of the fingers of the right hand and of the carpal bones. The skin on the back of the hand and over most of the palm was almost completely destroyed. Several tendons of the right hand and wrist had been torn and part of them had been blown away by the shot. There were many shot in the skin of the hand, arm, chest, and abdomen.

“Sheriff Griggs was given immediate surgical treatment as follows: The index finger of the right hand, together with many pieces of bone, was removed and the damaged tendons which were completely devitalized were cut away, and the remaining tendons were repaired. There was a compound fracture of the bones of the right thumb, which was reduced. A large part of the skin of the right hand was cut away and the remaining part utilized to cover partially the soft parts. The blood vessels were badly damaged but not completely destroyed, and the blood supply was sufficient to nourish the remaining fingers. The middle and

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