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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

What if a company refuses to pay cure?

After a serious injury aboard a vessel, you may expect the owner to pay for your medical expenses as you convalesce in New York. However, in some cases, seamen have had to take their employers to court in order to receive maintenance and cure that the law says should be theirs. In one case reported by FindLaw, the court found in favor of the men who were injured in a barge accident

Your shipowner is required to pay for maintenance and cure until you reach maximum medical improvement. One seaman involved in the lawsuit was awarded future cure, which required payments to continue until MMI, based on the testimony of a physician.

Risks and remedies at sea

Working on the ocean or on the docks, or enjoying boating or cruises in your down time, you face certain risks that are not an issue with other means of transportation such as riding the New York subway or navigating the city streets. The legal team at Tabak, Mellusi & Shisha are familiar with the many types of accidents that may happen at sea, and how the law differentiates between those and laws regarding accidents on land. 

MarineInsight.com points out that just like on land, many accidents on vessels occur because of human error. However, when someone is careless, fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol at sea, it could easily lead to the grounding, capsizing or sinking of the ship or boat you are on. Collisions and drowning are also common accidents that occur due to negligence. On cruise ships, statistics show that, although an electrical or engine malfunction may cause a fire, almost 75 percent are caused by crew or staff member mistakes. 

APM Terminals is bringing megaships to New York

Longshoremen who work for the Port of New York and New Jersey may be used to the rushed pace and heavy workload involved in loading and unloading container ships. After all, it is the largest port complex on the East Coast. To continue to hold its own in global shipping markets, the Port Authority must now be able to accommodate the megaships that are taking their place in the industry.

MarineLink.com notes that longshoremen may be facing some big adjustments when loading and unloading these vessels, which can hold 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent units and more. Cranes must be larger, and skilled staff must be in place to operate them so the work can move quickly. The infrastructure to handle the increased traffic from the trucks, railcars and barges necessary to take the units to their next destinations must also be expanded. In many ports, container ship turnaround is expected to take one day or less.

Defining "in the service of the vessel"

Those in Manhattan who work in the maritime industry are likely well-aware of the perils that they face from their profession. The heightened risk that they encounter while on the job has prompted policy makers to extend them added protections through the Jones Act. Section 30104 of this Act (as shared by the Cornell University Law School) clearly stipulates that injured seamen are allowed to bring action against their employers. It is also clear in detailing that one's injury must be sustained during the course of employment to qualify for this relief. 

The general term used to define cases where the Jones Act applies are when injuries are sustained "in the service of the vessel." Over the years, the question of what job functions are considered to be in the service of the vessel has arisen in multiple cases. The Supreme Court established a basic standard for such service in its 1995 ruling in . It determined that a seaman must have an employment-related connection to a vessel in navigation. The following elements must be present to establish such a connection: 

  • An individual must contribute to a vessel's function or the accomplishment of its mission
  • That contribution is limited to a particular vessel or identifiable group of vessels
  • The contribution is substantial in terms of its duration and nature
  • The individual is regularly exposed to the hazards of the sea during the course of his or her employment

After sailing camp tragedy, lawmakers seek safer boat propellers

Do propeller guards make boats safer? If they do, should boaters be required to have them?

There’s disagreement about how effective propeller guards are (some boat manufacturers say they may even make boats less safe), but there’s no disagreement about the danger of propellers. Last year at least 24 people died in boating accident involving propellers, and 175 were injured, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

U.S. and Liberian vessels collide in early morning hours

Every New York seaman aboard a vessel on the ocean should be aware of safety procedures, understanding that these can be different at night. Vessels respond to hazards following protocols based on the size, weight and other factors, as well. Regardless of the conditions, rigorous attention to duties is essential to prevent those on board from being harmed. 

The USS John S. McCain was recently involved in a collision with the Alnic MC, an oil tanker registered under a Liberian flag. It was near dawn when the accident between the merchant vessel and the guided-missile destroyer occurred. Details of the accident are still under investigation. However, experts note that many cargo vessels operate on autopilot, a function that can be time-consuming and expensive to turn off. On Navy ships, sailors most likely to be performing duty at that time of night are often younger officers. It is not known whether either of these factors may have come into play in this accident.

Jones Act may cost U.S. up to $15B per year

New York residents who have ever found themselves in gridlock and looked around to see a host of semi trucks or other large commercial vehicles carrying goods may logically wonder why so much commercial transport still relies on ground transportation. Even though the New York City area has designed truck routes in an attempt to alleviate some of the problems and dangers, the number of trucks on the road does pose issues on a daily basis.

Some people who have been urging either some amendments to or even a full repeal of the Jones Act point to this type of congestion as one reason such legislative reform is needed. First enacted nearly a centure ago, the Jones Act prevents cargo from being transported from one American port to another American port by any ship that is not operated by an American company and that was not built completely in America.

Factors that affect seaworthiness and your safety

As a seaman in New York, you may be well familiar with what makes a vessel seaworthy. While unseaworthiness has a definite meaning that could put your life in danger out on the ocean, it is also a legal term. If you suffer an injury, the definition of this word could affect your compensation. At Tabak, Mellusi & Shisha, we often help seamen to evaluate whether unseaworthiness is a factor in their circumstances.

The U.S. Courts for the Ninth Circuit defines unseaworthiness clearly. First, the duty to ensure that the vessel is seaworthy rests only with the owner, and he or she cannot claim that this responsibility was designated to someone else. Not only must the vessel, including all its components and equipment, be adequate to fulfill the purpose it was intended for, it must also have enough crew members to complete all of the duties necessary to safely run the ship. There should also be safety equipment provided in case an accident occurs.

When your work injury may not be covered by the Longshore Act

Being injured on the job in a New York shipyard can be devastating, and trying to determine where to look for help while attempting to deal with your injury may be overwhelming. Depending on the nature of your employment, you may qualify for help with medical expenses and other financial hardships through the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. At Tabak, Mellusi & Shisha, we are experienced in identifying the appropriate sources of compensation for shipyard employees.

The Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute explains that even though you are an employee of a maritime company and you work in a shipyard, you do not automatically fall under the scope of the LHWCA. For example, there are many employers who may require you to work onsite, but you would not be considered a longshoreman. These include the following:

  •          Vendors or suppliers
  •          Transporters
  •          Restaurants
  •          Recreational operations
  •          Retail outlets
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