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Millions Recovered

  • $5,400,000.00 settlement involving a seaman who fell from a stairway during fire and boat drill aboard a container ship sustaining quadriplegic injuries. Partners Mellusi and Shisha personally inspected the vessel taking hundreds of measurements and still and videos of every stairway in the ship’s main deck house. The data was compared with the vessel’s design plans in our library which demonstrated the vessel had been negligently constructed in that it failed to follow the naval architect’s original design specifications.
  • $2,400,000 jury award to a licensed marine engineer who sustained permanent knee injuries while attempting to remove a 200 lb. valve from an overhead piping system. Partner Mellusi personally inspected the ship’s engine room taking detailed photos and measurements. A duplicate valve was obtained from a maritime junkyard and was brought into court along with an auto-shop mechanical hoist capable of lifting it 12 feet to demonstrate the vessel lacked suitable means to perform this work safely. The jury award was in top ten verdicts in the United States for a comparable knee injury. The case was tried to verdict in a New York Federal Court.
  • $2,980,000.00 jury award to a ship’s cook for back injury resulting from insufficient procedures for moving ship stores. Case tried in New York federal court.
  • $2,700,000.00 settlement to a mate on a Tanker vessel who sustained multiple fractures.
  • $2,000,000.00 was awarded to a barge deckhand – wrongful death.
  • $1,827,000 awarded to a marine engineer working on a US Government supply vessel who fell into an unguarded ventilation fan causing neck, shoulder and hand injuries. The case was tried non-jury before a federal judge in Baltimore Federal Court. The court award was subsequently determined to be within the highest ten verdicts for the State of Maryland in 2009.
  • $1,200,000.00 jury award to a ship’s Bosun who sustained shoulder and neck injuries while attempting to move plywood sheets on main deck of vessel during 40 knot winds. Case tried in New York Federal Court.
  • $950,000 awarded to passenger killed when his recreational boat came into collision with tow wire of tug and barge
  • $850,000 settlement, Federal Court Allentown PA., to seaman sustained herniated disk while lifting a 110 lbs crane hooks.
  • $840,000 jury award to a seaman who fell from ladder while painting sustaining fractured wrist.
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New York Maritime Law Blog

Negligence not relevant for maintenance and cure

When a New York seaman is injured on a vessel, the owner is required to pay for medical bills, lodging, transportation and food until the seaman either returns to work or improves as much as he or she can under medical care. According to the U.S. Courts for the Ninth Circuit, these expenses are known as maintenance and cure and are rights that seamen have as long as they can fulfill the burden of proof.

The evidence must show the status as a seaman, service on the vessel at the time of the injury and the amount to which he or she is entitled. The seaman does not have to prove that there was any negligence in the case.

Should the Jones Act be repealed?

If you work in the shipping industry in New York, you have likely heard of the Jones Act. You may even have strong feelings about it. You wouldn't be alone. Many people have boisterous opinions about this law from the 1920s. Most of them feel it is time to retire it completely and allow for better, less restrictive regulations to take its place.

According to The Hill, the Jones Act was meant to stop competition on and strengthen the security of U.S. ports. It places limits on domestic shipping so only American made, registered and built vessels can transport goods between American ports. This restriction has had a detrimental impact on the country's economy.

Recreational boat deaths on the rise across U.S.

With recreational boating season in full swing across the country, the Coast Guard and local officials are encouraging boaters to wear life jackets and avoid drinking while operating their boats. There's data behind these warnings: according to a recent Coast Guard report, alcohol was the most common known factor in recreational boating deaths last year, and the vast majority of drowning victims of boating accidents were not wearing life jackets.

Each year, the Coast Guard analyzes recreational boating statistics to better understand the main causes of boating accidents and to encourage safe behavior to prevent future accidents. The 2016 data suggests that recreational boaters across the U.S. may not be taking safety as seriously as they should: across the U.S., recreational boating fatalities are up by more than 11 percent over 2015.

Boating and alcohol: a bad combination

Because boating is typically seen as a recreational activity, New Yorkers may assume that the laws concerning alcohol behind the wheel of a boat are not as stringent as those restricting car drivers. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, though, boating under the influence can be just as deadly as driving while impaired. About 16 percent of all boating deaths are alcohol-related.

The absence of obvious lanes and objects to run into can add to the impression that it is safe to be out on the water after a few drinks. Navigating boat and shipping traffic, waves, shoreline and submerged hazards requires a clear head, though. There is a ten times greater chance that boat operators will die in an accident if they have a blood alcohol content of 0.10 percent or more.

Vessel owners’ duties to longshoremen

Any employee in New York has a right to expect a company to ensure safe working conditions. Likewise, you should be able to trust that the owners of the vessels you load and unload will do what they can to maintain your safety. We at the law firm of Tabak, Mellusi & Shisha understand all the nuances of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, and how those may apply to situations where you work.

The National Law Review explains that a vessel owner owes three duties to you when you are performing jobs under hazardous conditions. These include the following:

  •          To provide you with conditions that are reasonably safe when the vessel is turned over to you, along with warnings of any hazards that are not obvious
  •          To take steps to prevent you from sustaining injuries when you are working in areas that are under the control of the vessel
  •          In a limited capacity, to intervene when you are performing tasks in a way that is not safe

Collision between ship and destroyer still under investigation

New York seamen aboard vessels around the world are subject to a number of risks that people in occupations on land never encounter. Accidents have the potential to be much deadlier when stranded in the open ocean, particularly when, as is frequently the case, rescue is not immediately available.

Damaged communications equipment may have played a part in the seriousness of the recent collision between the USS Fitzgerald and the container ship ACX Crystal. The destroyer was unable to radio for assistance, and there was no distress call sent until the merchant vessel returned an hour later. Investigators believe those on board the ship were not aware that they had hit the Fitzgerald. Meanwhile, the crew of the destroyer had to make life-or-death decisions in an attempt to prevent the damage from sinking them. Seven crew members from the destroyer were killed.

What is maintenance and cure?

Workers in New York can typically receive compensation for on-the-job injuries through workers’ compensation. As a seaman, this coverage is not available for you. However, according to the U.S. Courts for the Ninth Circuit, federal law does require your employer to provide financial assistance when you have medical needs because of a physical condition that arose while you were in service on the vessel.

Your employer should cover the costs of both maintenance and cure. Maintenance describes the expenses related to your housing and food, as well as the transportation you need to access your treatment. Cure relates to coverage of your medical expenses. Being awarded this coverage does not relate to whether you were working at the time of your injury, and you may be eligible even if you were negligent. But, if you were behaving in an unacceptable manner such as being under the influence of alcohol or drugs when you were injured, you are unlikely to qualify.

Recovering from a boating accident

When it comes to boating accidents, there are a myriad of ways that things can go wrong. For example, you may be hurt while working on a fishing boat, or you could sustain an injury or lose a loved one in an incident that occurs on a cruise ship. At Tabak, Mellusi & Shisha, we believe that victims of these accidents deserve justice. Sadly, far too many peoples' lives have been upended in Manhattan and all across the state of New York due to these accidents.

Following an accident that you or a loved one were involved in, it is vital to take advantage of helpful resources that can help you restore some normalcy in your life. Moreover, you should be aware of the time constraints that may prevent you from taking action in the future, which underlines how critical it is to address the situation as soon as you can. Sadly, boating accidents can cause the loss of life and tremendous physical pain. Sometimes, those hurt will never fully recover from what took place. However, victims may also face financial ruin following an accident, whether they can no longer work or are having trouble with hospital or funeral costs.

Report: Crew fatigue likely caused Hudson River tugboat sinking

If you work on the water, you are probably familiar with working hard while short on sleep. But exhaustion can affect your judgment and lead to disaster, especially when coupled with bad weather and other challenges.

It now appears that crewmember fatigue was one of the main causes of the tugboat Specialist sinking last year. Three crewmembers died in the March 2016 accident, which occurred when the tugboat collided with the Tappen Zee Bridge construction site along the Hudson River north of the Bronx. The Specialist, while working with two other tugs to transport a barge with a crane on board, struck a construction barge near the bridge. Nearby workers noticed the accident and responded as quickly as possible but were unable to save any of the men on board the Specialist.

On a course toward unmanned cargo ships

The day when a ship may leave a port in New York without a crew member aboard is out there, although the exact date is still up in the air. According to IEEE Spectrum, designers are currently working on the technology to make unmanned cargo ships a reality, and trial runs have even been held. Proponents believe the safety benefits of a ship controlled by robotic and remote means could eliminate the thousands of mariner deaths each year.

While experts are seeking ways to make ships safer by eliminating the need for onboard crew members, companies are reducing the number of people manning the vessels without waiting for the technology to take up the slack. Marine Insight reports that this technique is one of the primary factors leading to crew member mistakes. Job duties relating to ship operations are shared among fewer and fewer workers, resulting in long and irregular hours. Often, the tasks are strenuous and physically taxing.

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