$3,400,000 – Paraplegia

Award Amount: $3,400,000

Location:Bangor, Maine

Injuries alleged: Paraplegia

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

Court/case#: U.S. District Court, District of Maine, No. 05-42

Tried before judge or jury: Jury

Name of Judge: John A. Woodcock, Jr.

Amount of award: $5.31 Million

Date: November 2005

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

Attorney for defendant: Withheld

On July 30, 2000, the VALIANT, a 130-foot ocean-going tug was in a shipyard in Tampa, Florida. In order to lower a piece of equipment to the lower engine room, a hatch cover was removed in the upper engine room. The Captain of the VALIANT proceeded to install safety rails around the hatch cover but then decided to remove the safety rails and put the cover back on. Prior to the accident, Plaintiff had seen the Captain installing the safety rails. However, at the time of the accident, no safety rails were around the open hatch, and Plaintiff was carrying approximately a four-by-four piece of cardboard with a piece of equipment on it when he fell through the open hatch down into the engine room approximately 14 feet. As a result, Plaintiff became a T6 paraplegic. Plaintiff did not have any memory of the accident.

Plaintiff claimed Defendant was negligent in that there were no railings around the open hatch, that Defendant failed to provide Plaintiff with a safe place to work, that Defendant violated OHSA regulations requiring openings to be guarded, and that Defendant failed to establish procedure and operations requiring railings to be installed when working around open hatches. Plaintiff claimed that failing to have rails around an open hatch was unseaworthiness and that the design of the railings was unseaworthy in that in order for the hatch cover to be removed or installed safety rails could not be in, thus leaving an unguarded, dangerous opening. Plaintiff contended that Defendant should have employed an alternative design that allowed the rails to remain in place when the hatch cover was removed and/or placed back on therefore eliminating any unguarded open hatch. Defendant claimed that it was Plaintiff’s job to install the safety rails and that he was at fault for walking with the cardboard.

Plaintiff claimed damages for past and future lost wages, future medical costs, and past and future pain and suffering.

Verdict for Plaintiff in the amount of $5,317,557 ($2.6 million for future medical costs, $2.5 million for past lost wages and future wages, and $100,000 for past and future pain and suffering.) Verdict was reduced to approximately $3,290,339.00 for Plaintiff’s comparative fault.