$800,000 – Fractured Distal Left Tibia and Distal Left Fibula

Amount : $800,000

Type of action: Admiralty/Maritime

Injuries alleged: fractures involving the distal left tibia and distal left fibula

Name of case: Plaintiff v. Lady Patricia, Inc.

Court/case #: United States District Court, District of Massachusetts 09-cv-10025

Tried before judge or jury (or mediation): Settled

Name of judge: Judge Woodlock

Amount (specify award or settlement): $800,000.00

Date (of verdict or settlement): August 2010

Summary of Evidence

At the time of the accident, the crew was getting ready to set out the net from the net reel. It is procedure in the industry that when setting out the net, the vessel should be heading into the wind with the bow, with the front of the boat hitting the waves.

At the time of the accident, the Plaintiff testified that Captain had the seas following the boat-they were hitting at the stern/back of the vessel. The Captain had given the order to release the net. The Plaintiff and fellow crew members job was to lower the stern ramp door by pulling out the rods from its upright position and lowering it to a 45-degree angle and replace the L piece shape of metal into the pipe of the door. As the Plaintiff and a crew member were in the process of lowering the door to the 45 degree angle, a large wave hit the stern of the vessel and washed up the stern ramp slamming into the net stern ramp door causing it to slam down towards the deck and crushing the Plaintiff’s leg between the metal door and deck. The Plaintiff’s leg was freed from underneath the door and after about 10 hours, he was airlifted off the vessel.

Plaintiff was diagnosed with acute comminuted fractures involving the distal left tibia and distal left fibula. Plaintiff underwent multiple surgeries for closed reduction of the pilon/distal tibia/fibula fracture utilizing an external fixator; a repair of the left tibial plafond fracture; removal the external fixator and did an open reduction internal fixation of the left tibial plafond fracture and open reduction internal fixation of the fibula, debridement surgery and rectus abdominis flap transfer with skin graft from the left thigh. Plaintiff was 53 years old at the time of the accident cannot return to work.

Liability in this case focuses on the negligence of the Defendant and the unseaworthiness of the vessel. At the time of his injury, the Plaintiff was acting pursuant to instructions and was acting with reasonable care. The crew was instructed to set out the net including opening the stern ramp door while the vessel was heading down sea in very rough weather. Due to the size of the net and the weight on the vessel, the vessel sat in a way which caused her to be lower at the stern thereby making her susceptible to waves washing up the stern ramp when heading down sea. In addition, the net reels were too big for the vessel which weighed down the stern and prevented crew members from seeing seas approaching the stern. Given the configuration and rigging of the vessel and the weather conditions present at the time of the Plaintiff’s injury, the captain failed to use reasonable care under the circumstances when he instructed the Plaintiff and the crew member set out the gear while he maintained his course heading down wind. The Captain’s instruction, under the circumstances presented created an unreasonable risk that the crew would be injured or washed off the deck when a following sea washed up the stern ramp. Plaintiff also alleges that the Defendant was negligent and vessel was unseaworthy in setting up a procedure which required the door to be opened 45 degrees to let out the net and that it put the crew members in a position of danger.

Defendant claims that the Plaintiff was contributory negligent as he was sitting to the side on a piece of wood at the time of the accident when he was opening the door.

Plaintiff also had a claim for the willful and intentional failure to pay maintenance. Defendant paid a daily maintenance rate of $25.00 in this case despite a request one month after the accident to increase the rate to between $88.00 a day, Defendant refused to increase maintenance.