Torn Cartilage Verdict

$920,172 – Torn Cartilage

Award Amount: $920,172

Location: Boston, Massachusetts


Jones Act – Third-Party Injury From Fight

Amount of judgment: $920,172

Injuries alleged: Torn cartilage in hip

Name of case: Plaintiff v. Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket Steamship Authority

Court/case#: U.S. District Court, No. 95-11773-JLT

Tried before judge or jury: Jury

Name of Judge: Joseph L. Tauro

Special damages: Approximately $100,000 lost wages and $16,000 in medical bills

Amount of judgment: $920,172

Date: Oct. 28, 1996

Highest offer: No offer

Insurance carrier: Commercial Union Insurance Co.

Attorneys for plaintiff: David F. Anderson, Latti Associates, Boston

At the time of his injury, the plaintiff was a 46-year-old seaman employed by the defendant as an able bodied seaman on the passenger ferry M/V EAGLE. The plaintiff was injured when he was struck in the hip by a wooden stick being swung by a fellow crew member who was involved in a fight with a third crew member.

The plaintiff was initially treated by approximately six different physicians, none of whom was able to provide a diagnosis. The plaintiff did not return to work following his injury. Approximately two years later, the plaintiff was diagnosed with torn cartilage within the hip joint which was treated through arthroscopic hip surgery. At the time of trial, the treating physician testified that the plaintiff was permanently disabled from his prior occupation as a seaman, but that he was capable of a less strenuous occupation. Prior to his injury, the plaintiff earned approximately $40,000 per year.

The plaintiff filed suit against his employer pursuant to the Jones Act and general maritime law. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant was negligent and that the M/V EAGLE was unseaworthy. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the crew member who struck the plaintiff with the wooden stick was an individual of known violent propensities and that the defendant was negligent for failing to control this individual and failing to maintain ship’s discipline. In addition, the plaintiff alleged that the employment of a crew member with violent propensities rendered the M/V EAGLE unseaworthy.

The plaintiff offered evidence that, prior to the plaintiff’s injury, the crew member who struck him had been involved in two physical fights. The plaintiff offered evidence that the crew member had a reputation for belligerence, had threatened to kill other employees, and had intimidated and made sexual comments to female employees.

After a six-day trial, the jury returned a verdict finding the defendant negligent and finding the M/V EAGLE unseaworthy. The jury awarded compensatory damages of $740,000, maintenance and cure in the amount of $22,000, and pre-judgment interest.

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