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Diane Sovel
Mindy Sovel
Sandy Sovel
Charles Sovel Esq. Argues Before The Supreme Court of the United States 
April 20, 1994, Washington DC 

Charles Sovel, Esquire, with his law partner Stanley B. Gruber, Esquire
on the steps of The Supreme Court. Washington DC, April 20, 1994

The Case....A summary by Stanley Gruber

Charles Sovel's client, Albert Howlett, was injured when he fell into an opening in a stow of cargo aboard a vessel while working as a longshoreman in connection with discharging that cargo from the ship, while it was berthed in the Port of Philadelphia. The cargo had been loaded by a foreign stevedore in a foreign port. During the course of loading the cargo, the foreign stevedore had placed an opaque plastic cover over the opening so that it was not visible to Mr. Howlett. Mr. Sovel sued the owner of the vessel, contending that that the ship owner had breached its duty of having the ship and its gear and appurtenances in such condition, prior to turning it over to the unloading stevedore, that an experienced stevedore could carry on cargo operations with reasonable safety to its longshoremen. However, the Trial Court entered Summary Judgment against Mr. Howlett finding that the ship owner had to have actual knowledge of this "latent " condition in order to be liable under its turnover duty to the longshoremen and that there was insufficient evidence of such knowledge.

Mr. Sovel's argument before the Supreme Court urged the Court to hold that the ship owner had a duty to actively inspect the cargo stow, which was similar to its duty to inspect the ship and its gear prior to turning them over to the longshoremen. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the ship owner’s duty of inspection did not extend to a stow of cargo loaded by a foreign stevedore and that the ship owner could only be found liable for defects in the stow if it could be proved that that it had actual knowledge of such defect. Since the Court concluded that there were issues of fact as to whether the ship owner had such knowledge, it sent the case back to the trial court for further consideration.

Upon remand to the trial court, the case was eventually dismissed because of insufficient evidence that the ship owner had actual knowledge of the defective stow.

Stanley B. Gruber, Esquire
Freedman & Lorry, P.C.


Charles (Chuck) Sovel was born January, 1933 in Pittsburgh, PA to Rose (Cohen) and Lewis S. Sovel. He grew up with his sister, Diane, in Philadelphia and attended Central High School. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School in 1954, and the University of Pennsylvania Law school in 1957. After serving a judicial clerkship for one year, he came to the firm of Freedman and Lorry. Chuck was a shareholder in the firm and president until his retirement. His major area of specialty was maritime personal injury law.

Chuck was married to Sandra Risack. They had three children: Jacqueline, Jeffrey and Mindy. Through his ancestry, Chuck was related to the Zavelsky, Chaiken and Chazanov families. He was an intricate part of developing our family history.

Chuck passed away on May 19, 2003 at his home in Bluebell, Pa.

The family on the steps of the Supreme Court. Click here for enlarged photo.
Associates and family on the steps of the Supreme Court. Click here for enlarged photo.
Document. Click here for enlarged document.
Document. Click here for enlarged document.
The Legal Intelligence. Click here for enlarged version.
Chuck and his sister, Diane, at his 70th birthday party at Diane's home in 2003.
Chuck and his wife Sandy in 2001