Seaman Gets $2.5 Million Jones Act Verdict

Seaman Gets $2.5M Jones Act Verdict
By Paul D. Boynton
Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
May 28, 2001

An ship engineer who suffered debilitating leg injuries on board a vessel recently obtained a $2.5 million jury verdict under the federal Jones Act, according to his attorney, Carolyn Latti of Boston.

The Jones Act lets ship employees injured at sea sue their employers for negligence and strict liability, instead of limiting them to workers’ compensation.

According to Latti, the plaintiff, Carlos Castro, was injured when 900-pound steel plates negligently stored on the ship fell, fracturing his leg.

The fracture led to damaged knee ligaments and a total knee replacement, Latti said, and also deprived the plaintiff of wages and future earning capacity.

Latti said the jury, which deliberated for about six hours after the two-week trial before U.S. District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr., probably found her client “a likeable, honest, hard-working guy.”

She contended that the defendant, SeaRiver of Maritime, Inc., a subsidiary of Exxon, tried to “whitewash” the incident with a questionable investigation.

“It was a total set up,” Latti told Lawyers Weekly. “He was a 24-year employee, and instead of helping him, they set him up. We were able to show the jury this.”

Latti also indicated that she and her partner, David F. Anderson, opted for a “minimalist” presentation of evidence.

“We had the treating physician on the stand, but no medical expert,” Latti explained. “We had an economist, but we decided to prove lost wages through tax returns, life expectancy tables, and the plaintiff’s testimony. It was low-tech all the way.”

Latti indicated that her client’s demand was $500,000, and the defendant’s last offer before trial was $400,000.

The verdict was approximately $2.88 million, which was reduced 10 percent for contributory negligence.

Boston attorneys Seth S. Holbrook and Bradley F. Gandrup Jr. represented the defendant.