DeepWater Law Edward R. Petkevis, PC

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DeepWater Law Edward R. Petkevis, PC

The United States Coast Guard can oftentimes be the mariner’s best friend. In times of peril, many lives have been saved due to the bravery of the sailors of a great branch of our military. However, they can also make mistakes, which while unintended, can cause severe harm. As an arm of the United States Government, they are subject to suit for negligence just the same as any United States agency.

This case involved a civilian contractor, covered by the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, performing repairs on board a Coast Guard cutter. A hatchway leading down into the area where the work was performed was in a locker room on board the cutter. Coast Guard crewman had allowed clothing outside of their lockers to accumulate in the area of the hatch, which impeded a mechanism that held the hatch upright.

When the worker attempted to descend into the hatchway, the hatch cover dislodged, causing this several hundred-pound steel hatch cover to fall, slamming down onto the worker’s fingers. The Coast Guard denied all liability, and offered only a nominal $25,000 settlement. We took the case to trial in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The trial looked strikingly similar to a scene out of A Few Good Men, with Coast Guard officers testifying in pristine white uniforms as to the reasonableness of their conduct.

The District Judge found that the Coast Guard was negligent, and entered a verdict for our client in the amount of $437,784.90, which included $50,000 in favor of the injured worker’s spouse due to the injuries to her husband.

Ed Petkevis

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(609) 964-0072