$925,000 – Fractured Vertebrae, Broken Sternum, Ligament Rupture and Herniations

Amount : $925,000

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Type of action: Admiralty/Maritime

Injuries alleged: fractured vertebrae, broken sternum, ligament rupture, herniations

Name of case: Plaintiff v. Dona Martita Fishing Co. LLC, Global Seas, LLC, Nina Fisheries, Inc., and Dona Martita LLC

Court/case #: United States District Court, District of Massachusetts 08-cv-10363

Tried before judge or jury (or mediation): Settled

Name of judge: Judge Woodlock

Amount (specify award or settlement): $925,000.00

Date (of verdict or settlement): April 2010

Summary of Evidence

Plaintiff was employed by Donna Martita Fishing Co. LLC as a crew member on the F/V DONA MARITITA. The F/V DONA MARTITA is a 150 foot fishing vessel that does pelagic pair trawling that was fishing for mackerel in the Atlantic Ocean off the Coast of New Jersey.

The accident happened on January 11, 2008 at approximately 8:00 am. The Plaintiff’s accident occurred at the point in the evolution of the fishing operation where the fish were caught, lines were passed from the pair trawler, the F/V EASTERN HUNTER, the net was brought along the starboard side of the vessel and the fish hose was ready to be set off the reel.

The Captain told the Plaintiff to go underneath the fish hose reel and feed out the hose. The entire fish hose was on the reel and had not been rolled out yet. In accordance with the captain and the mate’s instructions, the Plaintiff sat on the base of the fish hose reel that runs parallel to the rail with Plaintiff facing the rail outboard, his feet were flat on the ground, his body was forward and his hands were above his head with his hands over his head to help feed out. Once the hydraulics started, the reel jolted into action and he felt a very heavy blow across his shoulder, which forced his upper body onto his quadriceps. The Plaintiff then heard his ribs and sternum crack as he was being compacted, twisted and rotated into the hose reel until it was stopped and he was removed from the hose reel.

Plaintiff was airlifted off the vessel. Plaintiff was diagnosed with broken ribs; broken sternum; Chance type fracture at T12-L1 through the facet and pedicle of the T12 with ruptured ligament; widening of the interspinous process with ligamentous rupture and dislodgement and spinal cord decompression T12; herniations. Plaintiff had a spinal fusion T11 though L1; thoracic laminectomy T11, T12; lumbar laminectomy L1 for decompression; spinal cord decompression by thoracic laminectomy; evacuation of hematoma spinal cord compression and a bone graft.

Liability in this case focuses on the negligence of the Defendant and the unseaworthiness of the vessel. Specifically, the Captain and mate should have never ordered the Plaintiff to go underneath the reel to set out the fish hose. It was a dangerous and unsafe operation to have a crew member go underneath the hose reel or even being around it when it was being operated. Prior to operating the reel, the Captain and/or operator should know where all crew are. Additionally, all crew should be instructed to avoid at all time being under a hose reel when it is in operation or even in the zone of danger during operation. A hose reel should never be operated with a crew member is under it or in the zone of danger.

Plaintiff argued that there was no contributory negligence as the Plaintiff was a green horn and was following an order by the Captain and mate. Under maritime law, a crew member cannot be found to be contributorily negligent when doing the work ordered by a superior.

Plaintiff was unable to return to fishing but could work and return to his prior occupation as a teacher.