$2,500,000 – Crushed Leg

Award Amount: $2,500,000

Admiralty

Failure To Repair Storage Rack – Falling Steel Plates

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Amount of award: $2.5 Million

Injuries alleged: Fractured tibia and fibia, soft-tissue injuries to leg and knee, aggravation of pre-existing arthritis

Name of case: Plaintiff v. SeaRiver Maritime, Inc.

Court/case#: U.S. District Court, No. 99CV11629GAO

Tried before judge or jury: Jury

Amount of award: $2.5 Million

Date: May 18, 2001

Highest offer: $400,000

Demand: $500,000

Attorneys for plaintiff: Carolyn M. Latti and David F. Anderson, Boston

Attorney for defendant: Withheld

The plaintiff was employed as an oiler on a 650 foot tanker the S/R Charleston, which transports crude oil and product from Texas to New York. In the engine room was a steel storage rack that held five to seven pieces of 4-foot by 4-foot pieces of steel and various small pieces of steel. The steel rack was designed with two angle irons that extended perpendicular from the bulkhead wall. The angle irons had three holes in it in which a rod would be placed through the angle iron to secure the steel.

On March 3, 1998, the vessel encountered some bad weather, which bent the rods in the rack and caused the steel plates to shift out of the rack. The steel plates were no longer being held by the rack and some of the plates were in a passageway. Officers of the engine department testified that the rack was a potential hazard which might result in an accident. Despite being notified of the condition of the rack, the chief engineer reportedly did nothing to fix the rack.

On March 5, 1998, another crew member had straightened out the rods for the rack. The plaintiff helped the crew member put the steel plates back in the rack. After the last steel plate was in the rack and the crew member grabbed for the rods, more than 900 pounds of steel plates fell on the plaintiff.

The plaintiff sustained a fractured tibia and fibia of his left leg, soft tissue injuries to his left leg and knee, and aggravation of a pre-existing arthritis. Due to the accident, the plaintiff underwent internal fixation surgery with the placement of plates and screws in his leg, arthroscopic surgery, and, in October 2000, a total knee replacement surgery. The plaintiff will never be able to return to sea and is currently unable to work.

The plaintiff’s strategy throughout the trial was to focus on how the defendant had a policy of defending a case from the moment a person was injured. In this case, while the plaintiff was in the ship’s hospital, the chief engineer reportedly was busy contacting the attorneys and creating documents that implicated the plaintiff and absolved the defendant of blame.

In addition, throughout the trial the plaintiff constantly shifted the focus of the trial to inconsistencies of the chief engineer and the chief engineer’s alleged failure to take the appropriate measures to fix the dangerous and unsafe condition of the steel rack.

In closing argument, the focus was on how the plaintiff worked for the defendant for more than 24 years and instead of helping the plaintiff once the plaintiff was injured, the defendant was allegedly setting him up. Emphasis was placed on how the plaintiff’s life was devastated when he was injured since he could no longer do the work he loved, and how his whole life had changed in that he could not do any of the activities that he did prior to his accident.

The jury awarded $2.5 million for the plaintiff’s past and future pain and suffering.

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