The Source for Maritime Legal Information

Tug_Boat_Accident_Case-300x228An injured tug boat captain has been awarded over 3 Million dollars due to a slip and fall accident.  In August of 2015, the plaintiff was a tug boat captain.  His job duties included steering the vessel and supervising the crew.  On the morning of the accident, the tug was pushing two loaded chemical barges towards a fleeting area.  At approximately 5:00 a.m. the captain was awakened by the sound of the tug’s engines backing down.  He left his bunk in his athletic shoes and went to the helm to assist the pilot who was struggling to align the barges in the fleeting area.  He took over the controls and radioed for another tug in the fleet to assist.  With help from the assisted tug, the plaintiff was able to straighten the barges.  As the captain was about to return to his cabin to prepare for his upcoming shift, a deckhand reported that diesel or some other fluid was spraying from a generator in the engine room.  The captain determined that the safest approach to handle the situation was to simply switch generators rather than using the emergency kill switch as that would cause the entire tug to lose power.  In order to switch generators, the captain was required to manually shut off the leaking generator which was accessible only from the engine room floor.  The captain proceeded down the ladder followed by the deckhand.  Upon reaching the engine room deck both the captain and deckhand slipped and fell on accumulated diesel sprayed from the generator.  From this fall, the captain sustained a severe hip injury including a fracture to the right femoral head.  The injured captain required emergency surgery where four screws were placed in his hip to stabilize and reduce the femoral fracture.  The captain also injured his lower back.

Unseaworthiness of the Tug

It was later learned that the leak was caused by a faulty fuel pressure gauge.  The stem which connected the gauge’s valve to the fuel filter housing had sheered in half which caused diesel to spray from the hole.  From this, the Court found that the tug was not reasonably fit for its intended purpose and was therefore unseaworthy.  The tug company argued that the captain was comparably negligent as he entered the engine room in his athletic shoes and not the steel-toed boots required by the company’s safety policy.  The Court rejected this argument finding that the captain’s wearing of athletic shoes was not the legal cause of the accident as the deckhand, who was wearing the required steel-toed boots per the company’s safety policy, also slipped on the leaked diesel.   The tug company next argued that the captain was negligent for his decision to enter the engine room to manually switch the generators as opposed to shutting down power to the tug via the kill switch.  This argument was also rejected.  The Court, applying  maritime law precedent, found that in emergency situations a seaman’s actions cannot be judged as they would be in ordinary circumstances.  The Court then reasoned that the captain had to choose between shutting off all power to the tug, which was pushing two loaded chemical barges towards the fleeting area, or entering the engine room to see if he could stop the leak by switching generators. Under these circumstances, the Court determined that the captain acted reasonably and was not negligent by entering the engine room.

Man-Charged-with-Rape-of-Minor-NCL-232x300
Adam Christopher Boyd, 30, of Bay Springs, Mississippi has been charged with one count of sexual abuse of a minor in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2243(a). Boyd was arrested by Bermuda Police after the 15-year-old victim reported the rape to ship security while the ship was docked in Bermuda and is currently awaiting extradition to the United States.

Boyd and the victim were passengers onboard a seven-day cruise traveling from Boston, Massachusetts to Bermuda.  Per the Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint, on the evening of August 13, 2017 and into the early morning hours of August 14, 2017, the minor had been consuming alcohol with other individuals he met on the cruise.  While walking on deck 13 at approximately 1:12 a.m., the minor came across a group of people he met during the cruise. Boyd was within the group but the minor had not previously met him.  According to the victim at some point he and Boyd had a conversation during which Boyd told him he was a hairdresser and asked him how old he was and he responded that he was 15.

At some point the minor asked if someone in the group would escort him back to his room expressing concern over his father seeing him intoxicated. Boyd offered to escort him and per reports, the minor walked away with Boyd to a stairwell where Boyd began kissing him and touching his genitals, then faced him away from him and raped him.  The minor immediately reported the assault to the group he was with earlier in the night and then to ship security after reporting it to a family member with whom he was traveling.

Two-Killed-in-Jet-Ski-Allission-300x218Two tourists are reported dead after the 10-foot Yamaha Waverunner they were riding on slammed into a concrete bridge support in the area of the Bridge Road Causeway, north of the MacArthur Causeway.

Sabrina Daniels, 34, of Atlanta, Georgia and Julio Monteiro, 30, of Brockton, Massachusetts traveled with friends to attend the Miami Beach Kizomba Festival.  On Monday, the group of friends rented a yacht near Star Island and took turns riding jet skis.  At about 5:30 p.m. Monteiro was driving the watercraft traveling eastbound towards the causeway, when both he and Daniels were ejected into the water after hitting the concrete bridge arch.

Daniels and Monteiro were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center, where they died from their injuries.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is currently investigating the crash.

Injured-Jones-Act-Seaman-LawsuitWhen bringing a lawsuit dealing with an injured Jones Act seaman claim, much thought must be given to what court system, federal or state, the lawsuit should be filed and whether it is preferable to have a judge or jury decide the facts of the case. Maritime law affords injured seaman several options each of which has its pros and cons. In the case of Bell v. Westbank Fishing LLC, the decision was made to file the seaman’s injury claim in federal court without asking for a jury. Once filed in the federal court, Westbank, the defendant employer, filed formal demand seeking a jury, not the federal judge, decide the facts of the case, if it was liable for the accident, and if so, how much compensation the injured seaman is entitled to receive.

The Injured Seaman Has the Right to Demand a Jury Trial

The injured seaman sought to strike his employer’s jury demand arguing his employer has no legal right to a jury trial because of the way the compliant invoked the federal court’s jurisdiction. The complaint filed by the seaman indicated that the court had jurisdiction by what is known as a federal question. Federal courts have jurisdiction to decide claim brought under a federal statute. The Jones Act, which provides injured seamen a negligence claim against their employers, is a federal statute. The complaint was silent as to any other basis of federal jurisdiction. The employer argued that when jurisdiction is based upon the Jones Act, both the injured seaman and the employer have a right to demand a jury. The employer also argued that it has a Constitutional right to a jury trial under the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution.

Cruise-Arbitration-Agreement-300x200According to court records, Michelle Haasbroek was employed by Steiner Transocean Limited and worked as a spa facialist on board the M/S Crown Princess, a vessel owned and operated by Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd.  Ms. Haasbroek alleges in court filings that she was raped by Eddie Yamile Santa Cruiz Reyes (“Reyes”), a cruise line employee, while off duty in a crewmember residential cabin.  As a result of the rape, Ms. Haasbroek became pregnant and gave birth to a child.

Ms. Haasbroek signed an employment agreement with Steiner which provided that her duties were “to perform services in the company’s spa, salon or fitness facility on the vessel.”  Pursuant to the employment agreement.  Ms. Haasbroek agreed to resolve any and all disputes by final and binding arbitration in Nassau, The Bahamas.

Per court filings, Ms. Haasbroek met Reyes at the church aboard the vessel and she considered him strictly a platonic friend.  On the day of the incident, Ms. Haasbroek went to Reyes’ cabin to pick up his computer so she could bring it ashore for him to be repaired and he assaulted and raped her.

Image courtesy of Daily NewsAnthony J. Jarab, 24, resident of Niceville, Texas died early Wednesday when the boat he was a passenger of crashed into a channel marker in Choctawhatchee Bay in Okaloosa County, Florida.  Per a preliminary report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the vessel involved in the accident was a 22-foot Mako center console fishing boat that was being operated by Jackie C. Mott, 34, of Valparaiso.  Two other women were also on the boat, Madison R. William, 18 of Niceville, Texas and Amber Doolan, 32 of Dripping Springs, Texas.

At approximately 12:36 A.M. the boat was heading into Choctawhatchee Bay when Mott started to accelerate.  Per the report, she yelled at the two occupants seated on the bow to come off the bow and shortly after that the vessel struck a large channel marker.  Jarab was one of the individuals seated on bow and due to the impact he was thrown onto the deck near the center console. Jarab and the two injured women were transferred by emergency personnel to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center.  The two women were treated and released.  Jarab, however, died from his injuries at the medical center.  We extend Jarab’s family and loved ones our deepest sympathies.

This accident is the second fatal boating accident in Choctawhatchee Bay this year. In June, Sarah Flanagan, 19, a Texas A&M chemical engineering student was killed in a boating accident when the personal watercraft she was operating collided with a 30-foot Grady-White boat.

Explorer-of-the-Seas-Passenger-Medevac-300x179A 68-year-old man traveling on board the Explorer of the Seas is reported to have fallen down a flight of stairs on Tuesday sustaining serious injuries including rib injuries.  Per reports, the ship’s captain contacted the U.S. Coast Guard command center in Juneau and a flight doctor recommended the medevac.  A Jayhawk helicopter was sent out and the cruise ship passenger was safely hoisted up and then taken to a medical facility on land in Sitka, Alaska.

The Explorer of the Seas is operated by Royal Caribbean and at the time of the incident, it was on a week-long Alaska voyage departing from its homeport in Seattle on July 7 and scheduled to return on July 14.

The condition of the passenger is unknown at this time.

Royal-Carribean-Passenger-Fall-Accident-300x200A Miami Federal Judge has ruled that a Royal Caribbean cruise passenger injury case can proceed to a jury.  This case involves a fall in the Oasis of the Seas multipurpose auditorium.   The passenger was participating in a Game Show organized by the cruise line.  At one point, he was invited onto the stage.  While making his way to the stage, the passenger fell claiming that he was not able to discern the twelve plus inch drop from the seating area to the stage floor.  From this incident, the passenger filed a lawsuit in Federal Court alleging negligence and negligence design.

Royal Caribbean’s Motion for Summary Judgment

In order to prevail against a cruise line, the injured passenger must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there was an unreasonable dangerous condition that caused the accident.  The injured passenger must also prove that the cruise line knew or should have known of the dangerous condition.    Royal Caribbean argued that the step was not dangerous as a matter of law, that it did not have a duty to warn of the step and that it was not involved in the design of the step.   Royal Caribbean filed a motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss the passenger’s injury case.

Florida-Jet-Ski-Accident-Henry-Wise-300x193One man is missing from Florida Jet Ski accident which occurred on July Fourth. Henry Wise and Gavin Primm of Alabama were riding on a jet ski which collided with a boat near the Highland View Boat Ramp. The ramp is located near Saint Joseph’s Bay. Primm was pulled out of the water and taken to Bay Medical Center Hospital wherein he was initially listed in critical condition on but since been upgraded to stable. Wise was never located. The Coast Guard stated that his life vest was cut off by the boat’s propeller. Though the Coast Guard suspended its search, other agencies are still looking for Wise. The boat involved in the collision was operated by 19-year-old Robert Bratkinewiez also from Alabama. As of the date of this post, no charges have been filed against anyone involved in the Jet Ski accident. This is the second Florida jet ski accident involving a collision within recent weeks.

jetskichannelmarker-300x203A 19-year-old young woman, identified as Sarah Flanagan of League City, Texas was killed when the personal watercraft she was operating on Choctawhatchee Bay was struck by a 30-foot boat operated by 76-year-old Johnny Pope of Shalimar, Florida.

Per news reports, Flanagan was visiting Destin, Florida from Texas and had rented the personal watercraft she was operating.  At the time the accident occurred, she was riding with a group of people.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s initial report, the two vessels collided at a 90-degree angle and upon impact, Flanagan was thrown from the watercraft. A person accompanying Flanagan jumped in the water, pulled her onto his personal watercraft and took her to a nearby marina where he met EMS.  Flanagan suffered extensive head injuries and was pronounced dead at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center.  At this time the report does not indicate who was at fault.  Per FWC, there were no signs of impairment in either operator.