Child_Falls_Carnival_Glory-300x225A Girl has died after a fall from a Carnival cruise ship at the Port of Miami.  Reports reveal that the 8-year-old girl fell two stories from the interior atrium aboard the Carnival Glory Saturday morning.  Shortly after the incident, a retired paramedic started preforming resuscitation efforts.  The ship contacted Miami-Dade Fire Rescue which took over resuscitation efforts and transported the child to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead hours later.  The Carnival Glory had just returned to the Port of Miami after completing a 7-day Caribbean voyage when the incident occurred.   This is the third incident in recent times were a child has fallen over a railing aboard Carnival cruise ship.  On August 4th, a three-year-old girl fell from the balcony onto the lido deck aboard the Carnival Breeze.  In June, 2016, another three-year-old girl slipped through the rail of a Carnival Liberty ship from the 14th deck to the 12th deck.  Thankfully, both children survived those falls.

 

Injured_Fisherman_ClaimA Federal court recently found determined that a jury is to resolve an injured fisherman Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness claims .

Facts of the Case

This case involves a personal injury sustained by a professional fisherman aboard a vessel engaged in scalloping.  When fishing for scallops, the vessel the fishermen worked aboard drags along the sea floor two dredges, one on the starboard side and one on the port side.  Every hour, the dredges are winched up and their contents (which includes scallops, bycatch, rocks, and other debris) are dumped on the aft deck in what is known as “the pile.” The dredges are then lowered back to the seafloor, and the crew uses the next hour to pick the scallops out of the pile, deposit them in the shucking house, and return the rocks and bycatch to the sea.  Although the vessel has a non-skid surface on some of the deck, there is an area of the stern deck where the dredges and chain bags are regularly landed that does not. According to the defendants, that is due to the heavy abuse that part of the deck takes, which would cause the coating to wear off in a matter of days.

Injured_Seafarer_Arbitration-300x200Arbitration agreements are prevalent in cruise line seafarer contracts today.  This practice deprives the injured crewmembers of the fundamental right of a jury and sometimes precludes them of their statutory negligence causes of action provided to them under the Jones Act.  However, given the unique nature of maritime employment, in certain situations seafarers can avoid arbitrating personal injury despite the employment contracts requiring arbitration.

Facts of the Case

Recently a Florida Federal Court held that an arbitration provision found in a cruise line seafarer’s employment contract did not govern her on-the-job personal injury dispute.  In this case, the seafarer’s contract employer was not the owner or operator of the cruise ship.  In other words, the seafarer contracted with one company and then sent to work aboard a cruise ship owned and operated by other companies.  Once the seafarer started working aboard the cruise ship, she was managed and directed by the cruise ship’s owner and operator not the company of which she was technically employed by.  This unique set of facts allowed the seafarer to allege she was the borrowed servant of the cruise ship owner and operator who were not parties to the employment contract which contained the arbitration provision.

Photo credit: Pepin AcademiesDr. Craig Butz, 52, of Altamonte Springs was operating a personal watercraft with his 4-year-old daughter as a passenger when his jet ski collided with a center console boat operated by Thomas Carey, 67, of Clearwater. The collission happened near 941 Bay Esplanade near Clearwater Beach around 4:45 p.m. on Sunday. Dr. Butz was taken to Morton Plant Hospital in critical condition where he died upon arrival. His 4-year-old daughter was airlfited to Bayfront Health Hospital where she remains in critical condition. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is currently investigating the incident.

Dr. Butz was Executive Director of Pepin Academies, a charter school for children with learning disabilities. We extend our deepest sympathies to Dr. Butz’s family and loved ones and wish his young child a speedy recovery.

 

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.