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CACHICK v. UNITED STATES

April 16, 1958

MARGARET CACHICK AND STANLEY CACHICK
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. JESSIE FLANIGAN AND JAMES M. FLANIGAN V. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. NINA M. IMMELT AND FRED IMMELT V. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. LILLIAN LAMBERT V. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. WANDA F. LOVE AND WALTER S. LOVE V. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. JENNIE HEATON AND CARL HEATON V. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mercer, District Judge.

On the 31st day of July, 1954 a public ceremony known as "Salute to the Depot" was held at the Granite City Depot Military Reservation, Granite City, Illinois, it being the 12th anniversary of the establishment of said Depot. The general public had been invited to attend and the event had received wide publicity. About three hundred people had attended a luncheon at the High School in Granite City which had concluded at about 1:30 o'clock p.m. The luncheon was followed by a parade from the High School to the Depot grounds. During the parade there was some cloudiness, some sunshine and some rain. The ceremonies in the reviewing stand, located on the military reservation, started about 2:30 o'clock p.m.

In order to accommodate those present at the ceremonies the defendant constructed certain stands for the seating of the people. One stand referred to in the evidence as a reviewing stand accommodated those who were to participate in the program and many guests and dignitaries who had been invited. Another stand had been constructed near the reviewing stand, this being referred to as the "ladies' stand". This stand was occupied exclusively by ladies, the ladies being the wives, friends and guests of the military personnel based at the Depot. The principal plaintiffs were occupants of the ladies' stand and it is admitted that they were invitees.

The evidence discloses that in respect to the construction of the ladies' stand that 3" x 4" stringers were used as supports for a roof constructed over bleachers and were ten feet six inches in height at the front and ten feet at the rear. The roof was higher at the front of the ladies' stand. All of the stringers were of the same height and the supporting posts were attached to the bleachers at ground level and the stands had not been imbedded in the ground in any manner. The weight of each section of the stand was computed by the Safety Director of defendant as 1,130 pounds and the portion of roof of each section was 223.7 pounds and in the entire roof there was 1,083 square feet of yellow pine lumber. The ladies' stand consisted of four sections.

Shortly after the ceremonies began it started to rain and there was a moderate wind condition. After certain preliminaries Colonel Kurre started to speak, he being the principal speaker. The rain continued and a stronger wind was developing. The roof of the reviewing stand started cracking and it became apparent that a storm was about to strike. The Colonel had talked for approximately fifteen minutes and his speech was ended due to the weather condition. The people in the reviewing stand began to disband in all directions. In a very short period of time after the Colonel stopped speaking a violent storm crashed into the area and the roof upon the reviewing stand was blown upward and sailed through the air and the same gust of wind partially overturned the ladies' stand; two sections of said stand were overturned and two remained standing. Many of the ladies had left the ladies' stand but those remaining were in the ladies' stand at the time it blew over and certain of them alleged that they sustained injuries as a result of the overturning of the ladies' stand.

These proceedings were brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act and six cases have been consolidated and evidence heard only on the issue of liability.

We have involved herein the usual questions in negligence cases, namely, whether the plaintiffs were in the exercise of due care and caution for their own safety; whether the defendant was negligent and whether the negligence proximately caused the injuries complained of. Defendant has filed an affirmative defense "that if the plaintiffs received any injuries said injuries were caused by an act of God, unavoidable accident, and vis major".

The next question involved is whether or not the defendant was negligent in failing to furnish to plaintiffs a reasonably safe place to sit during the ceremonies. Plaintiffs, in conformity with Rule 36 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 28 U.S.C.A., called upon the defendant to admit the following:

    "That the stand on which plaintiffs were sitting at
  the time of the accident, was not attached to or
  imbedded in the ground in any manner."

The answer of defendant admitted the foregoing. In the defendant's brief is the following statement:

    "Since it was not intended that the stand should be
  used in case of inclement weather, the personnel of
  the Depot did not take into consideration the
  possibility that the ladies' stand would be subject
  to winds of very high velocity."

The witness Fredericks was employed at the Depot as a Safety Director since 1951. He testified that the bleachers used in the ladies' stand had been purchased in 1944; that no roof had ever been placed over these bleachers before; that the stands were not designed or constructed to withstand any wind pressure but were only designed for the purpose of protecting the occupants from the sun. The witness also testified that he did not examine to see if the upright posts or supporting posts for the roof were in the ground.

The witness Wallis testified that he is a safety inspector for the State of Illinois and had been for the past nine years. He had constructed bleachers for outside events and was familiar with their construction and safety requirements, and further testified that the stands were not safe because they were not anchored and that proper construction for stands to be used by occupancy with the roof on it, as shown by plaintiffs' exhibits in evidence, was to have the sections of the bleachers firmly anchored to the ground by having concrete foundations and the sections anchored into same by bolts or to have the sections anchored by guy wires anchored in what is called a "deadman" which is either a concrete block or large wooden block stuck in the ground at a proper depth. He further testified that the way the stand was constructed violated safe construction practices in the area. He further testified that never in his experience had he seen a roof on a structure such as was on the ladies' stand that was not properly anchored.

The witness Goldenberg testified that he is a structural engineer, had examined the bleacher stands, had seen the exhibits pertaining to the ladies' stand, computed the measurements and weight, applied recognized engineering formulae, and it was his opinion that the stand would blow over under a turbulent wind of 45.3 miles per hour. It was his further opinion that for temporary use the stand would require forty 100 pound sacks of sand to be placed on ...


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