Feds Allege Employee Who Attacked Captain Put Towboat, Crew at Risk

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that federal prosecutors said a towboat worker’s attack on his captain on the MIRANDA PAIGE put the towboat traveling up the Mississippi River and its crew at risk. An affidavit filed by Coast Guard Investigative Service Special Agent Roger St. Germaine Jr. said that 30-year-old David Donnell Roberts pulled the unnamed captain away from the wheel and choked him into unconsciousness on December 29, 2012, causing the MIRANDA PAIGE to veer sharply right and head toward the Illinois shoreline. The documents allege that Roberts told the captain that he was going to “choke (him) out.” The captain called his dispatcher and requested that they call law enforcement, but Roberts said that if he saw police, he would “take (the captain’s) dead body, drag it down the steps, and throw it into the river.”

The Post-Dispatch reported that the first mate took control of the ship after Roberts grabbed the captain. The documents allege that when the first mate warned Roberts, “You’re going to kill him,” Roberts replied, “I know I am.” Roberts threatened the first mate unless he was taken to shore, according to the Post-Dispatch. Federal prosecutors charged Roberts with performing an act of violence against and incapacitating an individual aboard a vessel as well as endangering both the vessel and those on board.

Under maritime law, the Captain will have a claim under the Jones Act and general maritime law for being physically assaulted on the water.   A vessel can be unseaworthy if a  crew member is “not equal in disposition and seamanship to the ordinary men in the calling.” An employer has a duty under the Jones Act to its employees to use ordinary care under the circumstances to furnish that person with a reasonably safe place in which to work.  A “safe place to work” under the Jones Act means a place where the work can be performed without exposure to unreasonable risk or harm if the worker performs his duties with reasonable care for his own safety. A safe place to work under the Jones Act also means a job site free from physical assault or attack from co-workers.  A seaman is entitled to perform his work free from physical intimidation, danger or attack from his co-workers.

We have more information about the Jones Act and unseaworthiness in assault situations available on our website. If you or a loved one was hurt in a physical or sexual assault while working at sea, contact our firm today at (800) 392-6072 to talk to Carolyn M. Latti or  David F. Anderson or complete the form on this page to let our Jones Act lawyers review your case.

Latti & Anderson LLP – Jones Act attorneys