Articles Posted in Offshore Accidents

vessels_beach_brazil_pier-1024x768Within the intricate realm of maritime law, determining liability can be challenging, especially when it comes to assessing the responsibility of ship owners for open and obvious risks. Such complexities become particularly evident when adverse weather conditions come into play. In this context, we delve into the case of Robert dePerrodil, an oil field consultant, and his encounter with the M/V Thunderstar. 

As we explore the legal intricacies surrounding his injuries and subsequent compensation, we shed light on the duty of care owed by ship owners, the notion of open and obvious risks, and the calculation of damages. Join us as we unravel the multifaceted aspects of maritime liability and its impact on the lives of those involved.

Robert dePerrodil was an oil field consultant who worked for Petroleum Engineers, Inc. (“PEI”). PEI charted the M/V Thunderstar to transport dePerrodil from Venice, Louisana, to the offshore platform where he was to work as a consultant. Bozovic Marine, Inc. owned and operated the M/V Thunderstar. The captain of the boat was Captain Bozovic. 

vessel_twin_masted_ship-1024x683An injury can happen in the most unlikely of situations, and although it may seem minor at the moment, it can create lifelong physical ailments. When this unfortunate situation occurs, you deserve to be properly compensated, regardless of any pre-existing conditions you may have. The following lawsuit shows how an excellent attorney can assist you in doing so. 

Ricky Koch was working as a foreman for Economy Iron Works aboard the United States-owned vessel S.S. Altair. He was participating in a “walkthrough” to potentially submit a bid for his employer on areas of the vessel needing repair. During the walkthrough, the group encountered a stairwell. The chief engineer who was leading the tour flipped a light switch, but it only partially illuminated the stairwell. As Koch descended in the darkness, he missed a step and fell backward, hitting his head, neck, and shoulders on the stairs. Upon returning to his office that same day, he completed an accident report and was driven home by a colleague where his wife found him immobile on a recliner. 

Koch could not work after the incident, with severe pain in his knees, neck, and back. He ultimately saw an orthopedic surgeon who concluded the incident exacerbated his preexisting osteoarthritic conditions and caused the need for bilateral knee replacements. Koch also saw a neurosurgeon who opined he had herniated his C6-7 disc as a result of the incident and subsequently performed cervical spine surgery. However, after the surgery, he had complications, including carpal tunnel in his hands, which the neurosurgeon noted were associated with and worsened by Koch’s neck problems. Because of his injuries, Koch underwent a right total knee replacement and had one scheduled for the other knee once he was fully recovered. 

Accidents happen daily, and when they do, they can be overwhelming and stressful. If you’ve been in an accident and filed a claim for damages, but it gets dismissed due to the granting of a motion for summary judgment in favor of the defendants, you may feel like there’s no hope. However, this is not the end of the matter. The trial court’s decision can be appealed, and the appellate court will review the decision to ensure whether the motion was properly granted. The following lawsuit shows how the appeals process can alter a trial court’s decision.

Stephen Ledet and his young son were sailing on a 16-foot recreational boat (“Ledet vessel”) being operated by Stephen’s brother, Kent Ledet. They were sailing on the Intracoastal Waterway near Berwick, Louisiana. The M/V Miss Cissy (“Miss Cissy”), a 46.5-foot commercial vessel owned by Parker Drilling Offshore USA, LLC (“PDO”), was sailing on the waterway at the same time ahead of them. Its employee, Captain Richard Rowe (“Rowe”), operated it. 

Kent Ledet could see the ship approximately 200 yards away as the weather was sunny and clear. However, Miss Cissy was traveling much slower than the Ledet’s vessel. The Ledet’s vessel eventually caught up to Miss Cissy’s rear. Miss Cissy then suddenly accelerated its engine and created large swells and wakes. Kent Ledet was unable to avoid the large wakes. The boat tossed and slammed against the water, and the whole family sustained alleged physical and mental injuries. 

boat_baltimore_fire_boat-1024x647Juries are one of the most important foundations in our legal system. Their role is to determine the truth behind the sometimes confusing legal language and provide justice. Juries rely on the information given to them by lawyers in the form of Jury Questions. However, when an alleged ambiguous term appears in the questionnaire, the court must determine if that specific word tainted the jury’s verdict. 

Richard Bosarge filed a lawsuit against his employer Cheramie Marine to recover damages from injuries sustained on a voyage when using one of Cherami Marine’s utility vessels. Borsarge had applied to work at Cheramie Marine, and as part of the pre-employment physical, he was asked if he had any prior back pain or injury. Borsarge told Marine he did not, concealing that he had back pain, and sought medical care. While on board one of Marine’s vessels in July 2014, Bosarge claimed the captain encountered “high waves,” Bosarge was injured when the captain decided to go through them. 

At trial, Cheramie Marine brought evidence that the waves were not, in fact, “violent,” and Bosarge’s pain was not from falling but from being seasick. Marine also brought in a medical expert who testified Bosarge’s pre-injury MRI scan looked worse than the post-injury MRI scan. The jury concluded they did not think Bosarge suffered an accident on July 18, 2014, and he did conceal material medical facts during the pre-employment medical examination and interview process. The trial court agreed with the jury’s findings. 

maritime_ship_daymark_65533-1024x768Activities on the water carry inherent risks. If you are injured while on the water, laws of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction generally rule. There are also allowances to invoke admiralty jurisdiction for injuries on land. To do so, one must satisfy conditions of both location and connection with maritime activity. But what happens if you are injured on a boat on land? Can you file a lawsuit with maritime claims? The following lawsuit out of Manchac, Louisiana, helps answer this question in the context of a prescription argument. 

Eddy Welch filed a lawsuit in October of 2013 against Jefferson Daniels to recover damages from bodily injuries he sustained from being a guest passenger on Daniel’s boat. While Welch attempted to come down from the boat’s upper level, a piece of steel rail caught his arm, and he sustained injuries. Welch claimed the injury was from a defect that posed an unreasonable and foreseeable risk of harm.

Procedural jostling caused Welch’s lawsuit to be transferred to another parish. Welch subsequently filed his amended petition with the new trial court, stating the incident falls under admiralty jurisdiction. Daniels then filed a motion for summary judgment and exception of prescription set forth under La. C.C. art. 3492. 

grinding_maintenance_labor_work_1-680x1024A disabling workplace injury can be a nightmare for an employee who suffers physical pain, mental side effects, loss of income, and the uncertainty of litigation. And when large sums of money are involved, an employer will want to fight tooth and nail to avoid liability. This can be particularly distressing when an employee wins at trial only to find the decision has been appealed. 

However, there is hope. Unless there has been a blatant error or abuse of discretion, a court of appeal will not want to overturn a factual conclusion or damage award from the trial court. Generally, that means an appeal will center around a question of law. See, e.g., Lasha v. Olin.

Sometimes the legal question is whether an injured worker qualifies for relief under a law. For example, an employee seeking coverage under the Jones Act must be classified as a seaman. To be one, your duties must “contribute to the function of the vessel or the accomplishments of its mission.” Determining who is a seaman under the Jones Act is a hotly contested issue, as seen in the case below. 

boat_rowing_boat_blue-1024x746Hydraulic steering is part of modern-day recreational vessels. When a boat’s hydraulic steering fails, what party bears liability? The owner, driver, or manufacturer? In the following case, the Louisiana 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal was asked to determine liability and proper damages when a boat’s hydraulic steering system failed.

On May 7, 2005, a boat owned by Glen Vamvoras and operated by his son Daniel Vamvoras was traveling in Lake Charles when its steering failed. As a result, the boat spun wildly, throwing its passenger overboard. The passenger, Derek Hebert, was then struck by the boat’s propeller and tragically died. 

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries (“Wildlife & Fisheries”) investigated the accident. It determined that the pre-owned boat purchased by defendant Glen Vamvoras lost its steering due to a hydraulic fluid leak on the boat’s steering system’s hydraulic lines at the hose/nut of the coupling assembly. Teleflex was the manufacturer and supplier of the boat’s hydraulic steering system, but the original Teleflex hoses of this vessel had been replaced by persons unknown with a non-Teleflex hydraulic hose. 

maritime_history_metal_historical-1024x680Medical conditions can be a sensitive topic for both employers and employees. While employers are extremely cautious in not asking discriminatory questions, the employees may still be reluctant and afraid to lay all cards on the table. Understandably, workers who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions feel that they don’t need to inform their employers as long as the illnesses are not getting in the way of work. But should they? A recent case from Lousiana Fourth Circuit illuminates the legal consequences where the employee lied on the medical forms and later requested worker’s compensation.

Seaman Rousse injured his back while performing his duties as a deckhand on a United Tugs vessel in 2014. His injuries caused him to have two lumbar spine surgeries. United Tugs paid his maintenance and cure, covering his medical expenses. However, three years later, in 2017, United was alerted that Rousse had significant back injuries before he started working on the vessel. He failed to disclose his prior medical treatments during the hiring process. As a result, United sought restitution of the paid compensation. The district court ruled in favor of United, holding that Rousse had forfeited his entitlement to receive maintenance and cure because he concealed that he had suffered back injuries before employment. Rousse appealed.

A duty for maintenance and cure means that the vessel owner must “provide food, lodging, and medical services to a seaman injured while serving the ship.” Lewis & Clark Marine Inc., 531 U.S. 438, 441 (2001). However, this duty is not absolute. When a seaman intentionally conceals or fails to disclose past illness when required by an employer, the employer’s obligation to pay maintenance and cure is eliminated. McCorpen v. Cent. Gulf S.S. Corp., 396 F.2d (5th Cir. 1968). This exception rule is called the McCorpen defense. The U.S. Supreme Court has neither adopted nor rejected the McCorpen defense, resulting in a split among the federal circuit regarding what non-disclosures could bar the employee from receiving benefits. The Louisiana Fourth Circuit found McCorpen persuasive and decided to follow McCorpen in this maritime lawsuit.

46-1024x685In the workplace, providing a safe environment through training, communication, and safety standards can help create an injury-free workplace. Yet, despite every precaution, accidents can still happen and then the situation becomes one of determining whose negligence caused the injury. This issue was explored in a maritime action filed on May 9, 2012 in the Twenty-Ninth Judicial District Court for the Parish of St. Charles. 

On November 11, 2011, Jeffrey L. Soudelier, Jr. was aboard the towboat M/V Steven M. Bryan as its captain. The towboat was one of many vessels owned by the defendants: PBC Management, Inc., Florida Marine Transporters, Inc. and Florida Marine, LLC. On this day, Soudelier was instructed to move a big, steel-reinforced, cross-over hose from a barge to the towboat. The hose was heavier than it should have been due to material inside it that was supposed to be removed. Soudelier and four others were in the process of moving the hose when a painful pop in his hip forced him to stop. Soudelier tried to wait and see if the pain would go away but it did not and though he finished moving the hose, he was injured. 

Soudelier filed a lawsuit against the defendants, seeking recovery and claiming unseaworthiness in accordance with the general maritime law, as well as a claim for maintenance and cure. He claimed that his injury required surgeries and caused permanent and disabling problems, and that the required heavy physical work caused even more trauma. Soudelier stated that the defendants’ boat was unseaworthy and defendants were negligent because they did not offer alternative ways to move the hose and failed to train workers about this safety issue. 

image-for-post-69-from-email-5-14-19-1024x384Offshore drilling platforms enable petroleum companies to access oil deposits beneath the ocean floor. Although these platforms are anchored to the sea floor, they are technically movable and can be relocated. Whether a platform is considered “immovable property” under Louisiana law became a central issue in a case involving an injured worker because different prescription periods apply to personal injury claims depending on the nature of the property at which the injury occurred.

 In 2002, McDermott, Inc. designed and delivered the Front Runner Spar, an offshore facility used for removing and processing petroleum from the seabed of the Gulf of Mexico, to Murphy Exploration & Production Company. Murphy affixed the platform to the sea floor at the edge of the continental shelf offshore from Louisiana. James Hefren was hired by Murphy as the lead operator. In June, 2011, Hefren was injured when he was struck in the face by the flange of a valve. He filed a lawsuit suit against Murphy for negligence under the Jones Act, as well as specifically alleging that McDermott failed to properly design and construct the facility. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana entered summary judgment for Murphy, dismissing Hefren’s tort claims as barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.

McDermott filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that Hefren’s claims were barred by Louisiana’s rule that actions arising out of deficiencies in construction or design must be brought within five years after the date the property was accepted by the owner. See La. R.S. 9:2772. Holding that the Front Runner Spar was an “immovable object” under Louisiana law, and considering that nine years had passed between Murphy’s acceptance of the facility and the date Hefren’s lawsuit was filed, the district court dismissed the claim against McDermott.

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