$1,800,000.00 – Jones Act Seaman Injured on Crane Barge
Demonstrative of the importance of preserving evidence in the marine environment, this case involved an individual working on board a crane barge, where he was crushed by a crane against a control booth. The deposition of the crane operator was immediately taken to preserve his testimony. During the deposition, the crane operator testified that “we told them three times to move the damn thing before someone got hurt.” Several weeks after giving this critical testimony, that same crane operator was killed when his crane fell into the harbor. His testimony was preserved through the deposition. The vessel owner would not offer more than $250,000 in settlement, so we took the to trial, and the crane operator testified from beyond the grave through the use of his deposition testimony. The judge awarded the injured sailor $1.8 million.
This case is also representative of a critical issue in admiralty, which is whether or not the floating structure is a “vessel” within the meaning of maritime law. There are many specialized floating structures in use today. If the structure qualifies as a vessel, then the injured worker has all of the protections of a Jones Act seaman. If it is not a vessel, but a work platform, then the worker is limited to worker’s compensation benefits. In this case, we were able to persuade the judge that the floating platform, because it had navigational lights, a raked bow, and other attributes of a vessel, that the crane barge was a vessel within the meaning of the law, and that the injured worker was entitled to the much greater benefits afforded by the Jones Act.
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