$22.5 Million Recovery for Mariner Injured in Barge Accident

In a unique case involving complex issues of both admiralty law and state law, Carolyn Latti and David Anderson of  Latti & Anderson LLP succeeded in recovering $22.5 million for a mate who suffered the loss of both of his lower legs in a barge accident. 

Because of the intricate issues and number of potential parties at fault, litigation in the case continued for four years until a resolution was reached which enabled our client to receive compensation for the years of pain and suffering and to meet the challenges of life ahead.

What Happened

The 38-year-old injured maritime worker had been employed for some years as a mate on tugs transporting materials on barges. On the date of the accident, he was ordered to load 700 tons of material onto each of two barges tied together. After loading the first barge and while the second barge was being maneuvered into position for loading, the first barge capsized, crushing the worker’s legs between the two barges. He dragged himself along the deck and grabbed a ladder rung to keep from going under water.

Tourniquets placed on each leg kept him alive until emergency assistance arrived, but both legs had to be amputated above the knee. To date, the worker has endured eight rounds of surgery and suffers from constant pain as well as PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

Investigation revealed that the scale on the conveyor belt which was used to load material onto the barge, was faulty and displayed a weight that was approximately 20% less than the actual weight. Although the barges should have been loaded to 700 tons, the incorrect reading caused 840 tons to be loaded on the barge instead.

Assessing Liability

Legal claims were filed against the employer operating the tug and barges, as well as several parties associated with the installation, operation, and manufacture of the scale equipment used on the conveyor belt. One party admitted that they were aware that the scale was inaccurate, but they failed to notify the tug and barge operators, even though they knew the companies relied on this information.

Allegations included failure to properly install, calibrate, test, maintain, and repair the scale. The determination of fault was quite complex. For instance, part of the problem was that one party failed to remove shipping bolts on the scale and that it was alleged that this failure affected the scale’s ability to weigh items properly. In addition, claims were brought against parties for failing to include an appropriate safety device on the conveyor belt, an inclinometer module that would have provided consistently accurate weight measurements from the scale as conditions changed during loading. The owner of the vessel was also accused of failing to maintain the vessel properly, which allowed water to accumulate below deck, and for the lack of alarm devices to monitor the amount of water beneath the deck. In fact, the vessel even lacked simple load lines that could have acted as sight indicators that the barge was overloaded.

Record High $22.5 Million Settlement

No amount of money will restore our client’s lost opportunities in life. An active man who loved the outdoor life and who dreamed of captaining his own vessel has been forever scarred mentally and physically by trauma that could have been avoided.

Latti & Anderson worked hard for four years  pursuing all avenues of recovery in state and federal courts, finding the right experts to get to the bottom of factual issues, and developing the right legal arguments to succeed on numerous levels. Our goal of achieving an outcome which secures the highest compensation for clients for their suffering which they have endured and also to compensate them for future needs was achieved  in this case with a record high settlement of $22.5 million for our client.  

Latti & Anderson has over a 50 year tradition of protecting the rights of those injured at sea or who have lost loved ones. If the failure to maintain or repair equipment or faulty installation of equipment or other negligence caused injuries to you or a loved one, contact us to learn more about the ways the dedicated attorneys at Latti & Anderson can assist you.