Negligence Unseaworthiness Traumatic Amputation

Second Mate’s Leg Caught in Mooring Lines During Manual Release:
Negligence: Unseaworthiness: Traumatic Amputation: Settlement
ATLA Law Reporter
August 2006
Benson v. United States U.S. Dist. Ct., D.Me., No. 1:04-cv-00195, Nov. 2005.

Benson, 52, was a second mate onboard a roll-on/roll-off cargo ship owned by the United States. He began to release the mooring lines to a tugboat but realized the winch that normally released the lines was not working. He and other crew members manually released the lines, which grew taut. Benson’s right leg became entangled in the mooring lines and was ripped off as the lines tightened. Because of the traumatic amputation, he required repeated surgeries and debridements. He needed physical therapy and training on use of a prosthetic leg and suffers from ongoing pain and phantom pain. His past and future medical costs are estimated at about $1.13 million. Benson, who had been earning about $70,000 annually as a second mate, does not expect to be able to return to work.

Benson sued the United States as owner of the vessel. Suit alleged negligence under the Jones Act, 46.U.S.C. app. Section 688, and unseaworthiness. Suit claimed that the captain of the vessel knew the winch was malfunctioning but failed to (1) stop the crew from attempting to release the mooring lines manually and (2) notify the tugboat that the crew needed additional time to manually release the lines. Plaintiff also claimed, among other allegations, that the winch malfunctioned and that the vessel was moving at the time the lines were released, which added to the quickness with which the lines became taut and ensnared plaintiff’s leg.

Defendant contended that plaintiff should not have manually released the mooring lines and improperly operated the winch, which was in good working order.

The parties settled before trial for $2.45 million.

Plaintiff’s Counsel

Carolyn M. Latti, Boston, Mass.
David F. Anderson, Boston, Mass.