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LITTON SYSTEMS, INC. v. ELBERT C. ENOCHS

MAY 09, 1984

LITTON SYSTEMS, INC.
v.
ELBERT C. ENOCHS



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, BOWLING and ROBERTSON

ROY NOBLE LEE, PRESIDING JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Elbert C. Enochs filed suit against Litton Systems, Inc. (Litton) in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Mississippi, Honorable Robert T. Mills, presiding, for damages on account of personal injuries sustained. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Enochs in the sum of $75,000 and Litton has appealed here, assigning five errors in the trial below.

I. - II.

 THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN OVERRULING LITTON'S MOTIONS FOR A DIRECTED VERDICT AND JUDGMENT NOTWITHSTANDING THE VERDICT.

 THE LOWER COURT ERRED IN OVERRULING LITTON'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT NOTWITHSTANDING THE VERDICT ON THE GROUND THAT THE PLAINTIFF'S EXCLUSIVE REMEDY WAS UNDER THE MISSISSIPPI WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION ACT.

 Evidence favorable to Enochs reflects that he had been employed by Litton for a period of approximately five (5) years, prior to July 7, 1977, in the capacity as a chipper-grinder at Ingalls Shipyards. The work was strenuous and involved the use of a 20-30 lb. chipping gun with which the workmen chipped off and smoothed seams left from welding the hulls of ships.

 On July 7, 1977, Enochs reported to work for the 3:30 p.m. to midnight shift and parked his automobile in a parking lot provided by Litton, located off the shipyard premises. When the shift (second) terminated, Enochs left the shipyard through Gate #1 and walked along a well-traveled area toward the parking lot. Several different routes were available to the parking lot and workers were at liberty to use the route they desired. In that area, guy wires were connected to tall light and antennae poles located in the shipyard and substation and were anchored by concrete deadmen, described as pillars sunk in the ground and covered with asphalt and seashells. The area

 was dimly lighted and, according to Enochs, was not as well lighted as previously. The shells and asphalt had eroded or washed from one of the deadmen which had protruded from two to four inches above the passageway. Although Enochs had traveled the area often before, on that night he was unable to see the deadman protruding above the ground and, because of that condition and the poor lighting, he tripped over the deadman, fell, and injured his left shoulder, head and left knee.

 Litton contends that the lower court erred (1) in declining to sustain its motion for directed verdict and (2) in failing to sustain its motion for judgments notwithstanding the verdict, particularly on the ground that Enochs' exclusive remedy was under the Mississippi State Workmen's Compensation Act.

 The same rule as to the scope of appellate review applies in motions for directed verdicts and judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Lewis Grocer Co. v. Williamson, 436 So.2d 1378 (Miss. 1983), involved facts similar to the case here. There, Williamson drove through a store parking lot and stopped at one of the parking bumpers. The area was dimly lighted and, as Williamson got out of his car and started toward the door of the store, a floor mat, which customarily was located in front of the outside door, was partially draped over a parking bumper. He was unable to see the mat, fell and injured his left knee. We held that the only proof in the record as to the condition of the premises and what happened was made by the appellee; that, in the exercise of reasonable care, the store operator knew, or should have known, that the mat had been removed from in front of the door and placed in another location; that the jury could have believed from the evidence that appellant, the Lewis Grocer Company, had actual and constructive notice as to the condition of the premises, including poor lighting and the location of the mat draped over the bumper stop; and that the condition of such premises constituted a hazard and danger to the invited public. Quoting from Georgia-Pacific Corp. v. Blakeney, 353 So.2d 769 (Miss. 1978), the principle relating to motions for directed verdict was restated:

 The rule in determining whether a motion for directed verdict should be granted, requires the trial judge to consider the evidence on behalf of the party against whom a directed verdict is requested, along with all reasonable inferences, in the light most favorable to said party, disregard any evidence of the other party in conflict therewith, and, if the evidence and reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom would support a verdict for such party, the motion for directed verdict should be denied. (Here the motion for directed verdict actually was a request for

 peremptory instruction). [Citations omitted] [353 So.2d at 772]. (436 So.2d at 1380).

 We are of the opinion that, under all the evidence, together with reasonable inferences, there was a question of liability for the jury to determine.

 Prior to instituting the common law action in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Enochs filed claim for benefits under the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers' Act and the Mississippi Workmen's Compensation Act for injuries sustained from the fall. Ingalls Shipbuilding, Division of Litton, successfully defended the actions, and both claims were found to be non-compensable, the administrative judges and commissions in both the federal and state proceedings, holding that the injury did not arise within the scope of Enochs' ...


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