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

Investigations of boating accidents

As a passenger or employee on a ship, yacht, boat or ferry, any accident that affects your health or well-being should be investigated as thoroughly as a motor vehicle crash, on-the-job injury or premises liability incident in New York. There is a statute of limitations that will prevent you from filing a claim if you delay too long, and having evidence of the details is essential to this process. Our team at Tabak, Mellusi & Shisha understand how the system works, and who should be responsible for gathering all information relevant to the accident so the right parties can be held accountable.

Marine Insight explains that senior officers and other mariners should provide accurate data to the investigators who are conducting an evaluation of the circumstances that led to your injury. These include what was taking place when the accident happened, as well as records of normal operations and activities that occur onboard the vessel. Officers typically can supply documentation such as the log books, vessel certificates, records of engine and deck maintenance, and details regarding safety equipment.

Death at sea: What are your risks?

Your general risk of a motor vehicle or workplace accident in New York may be taken for granted to the point that you do not spend much time thinking about whether you will be affected unless one has directly affected you or someone you know. At sea, the nature of the hazards may keep them at the forefront, and in some cases, your awareness of them could save your life.

Marine Insight explains that adhering to regulations should go a long way toward preventing fatal accidents on board ships. For example, there are procedures for entering an enclosed space, and failing to follow these puts you in danger of exposure to a toxic or flammable gas. Even when they are contained in appropriate tanks, these gases can be fatal if you are performing hot work nearby without taking precautions. Mooring operations and lifeboat testing are both highly dangerous jobs, and a lapse in attention or a simple mistake while taking care of these duties is often deadly.

PTSD and maintenance and cure

If you have experience a traumatic event that left you injured during the course of your employment as a seaman, you may seek maintenance and cure in New York under the Jones Act so that your employer will cover the costs of your medical care and certain expenses while you are undergoing treatment. However, even though you may make a complete physical recovery, if the incident left you with post-traumatic stress disorder, it may be difficult or impossible for you to function normally. We at Tabak, Mellusi & Shisha understand the importance of ensuring that maintenance and cure benefits cover all damages.

If you have been diagnosed with PTSD and are denied maintenance and cure, you may be able to take your employer to court and receive the benefits to which you are entitled. According to a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, even if you had pre-existing PTSD, you may still be entitled to benefits for PTSD from the new trauma. You may not win your court case if your employer can show, though, that all of the following three things are true:

  •          You knew of the issue before you were hired and did not reveal it.
  •          Revealing it would have prevented you from being hired.
  •          It is directly related to the development of your current PTSD.

Why OSHA is worried about chromium exposure on ships

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulates workplace safety for New York seamen in the maritime industry, as well as employees who work on land. Not only does this include preventing injuries, OSHA also has hazard communication rules that require employers to protect workers from chemical exposure. One of these that is mentioned specifically in relation to the maritime industry is chromium.

Employer responsibilities include appropriate labeling and personal protective equipment and clothing. The dangerous nature of the chemical may even create a need for special spaces designed to remove, dispose of or clean contaminated clothing. Employees who come into contact with chromium must be trained in how to interact with it, as well as the health problems that may arise from exposure. Any failure of the employer to follow these regulations may be considered negligence.

After Hudson River collision, new safety recs for shared waterways

Last year's collision between a ferry and kayakers on the Hudson River could lead to stronger safety requirements for recreational boaters. At least, that's the hope of the National Transportation Safety Board, which has issued some new recommendations aimed at making shared waterways safer.

The recent safety recommendation report begins with a description of the type of event the NTSB wants to help prevent: Last August, a New York Waterways ferry backed into a group of kayakers on the Hudson River, injuring three of them. The ferry captain said he didn't see the kayakers in time to avoid them, in part because of the glaring sun.

What are your responsibilities in a New York boating accident?

Boating can be a great recreational activity, or you may use your vessel in the course of your daily business. Regardless of the use, size and features of your boat, the state of New York has boating laws in place to make sure you and others are safe on the water. Although there are many regulations that you must follow to prevent an accident, once you are involved in one, you must follow specific protocol.

Any time a law enforcement official gives you a directive on the water, you must comply. This includes any audible or visual signal. Authorities who have jurisdiction over the New York waterways include the following:

  •          Local, county and state police officers
  •          State Park officials
  •          U.S. Coast Guard officers
  •          Harbormasters and Bay constables
  •          Officials from the Department of Environmental Conservation

Seeking medical attention after an injury covered by the LHWCA

If you have been injured on the job and meet the qualifications of a worker covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, you may need treatment in order to recover. We at Tabak, Mellusi & Shisha often answer questions about the steps to choosing a health care provider to address your injury.

The U.S. Department of Labor explains that you may choose your own health care provider, but there are factors that may affect whether your employers’ insurance company covers the costs of your treatment. For example, faith healers and naturopaths are not physicians, and their services would not be covered unless you are under the care of a qualifying physician, and he or she prescribes the treatment provided by them. Treatment from a doctor who has been debarred by the Department of Labor is not covered. In certain circumstances, a chiropractor’s services may be covered.

Cruise ship explosion led to fatal worker injury

New Yorkers and others who work on cruise ships are subject to dangers that employees on land do not face. This is one primary reason that United States laws protecting these workers have been tailored to meet the specific needs of those who have been injured while working on a vessel, whether at sea, at anchor or in port.

Inflatable life boats are an important feature of any cruise ship, and these must be rigorously maintained, as well as the systems necessary for launching them in an emergency. This service may have been the task undertaken by a crew member on board a ship in port when a nitrogen gas cylinder he was using exploded. The force of the explosion sent the high pressure cylinder from the vessel to the pier, according to a passenger who witnessed the event, and noise from the blast carried more than a mile from the vessel.

Before you receive compensation under the Jones Act

Any New Yorker who is injured on the job should have some recourse for receiving compensation to cover medical expenses and lost wages. However, the workers’ compensation laws that apply to employers in the state are not the same as those that apply to maritime employers. According to the U.S. District Court for the Ninth Circuit, a seaman who sustains an injury because of the employer’s negligence may be eligible to file a Jones Act claim.

If a sensible person would not have acted in the way the employer did to create the circumstances, or if it is the action that is unreasonable, then it may indicate negligence. The seaman must have proof that the act or failure to act was negligent in order to proceed with the claim.

When does maintenance and cure include punitive damages?

When your employer refuses to pay for the medical costs associated with your accident on the job as a seaman, it may seem as if the company is adding insult to injury. However, you may find that during your recovery in New York, the delays and difficulty you experience as a result of the hardship from the injury add further harm, as well. If you are able to prove that you qualify for compensation based on maintenance and cure, you may also be able to hold your employer responsible for those secondary damages.

The U.S. Courts have strict guidelines for you to meet before you may receive maintenance and cure. You must be able to provide evidence of the following:

  •          You were a seaman when you were injured.
  •          Your damages include specific health care and living expenses that should be covered by maintenance and cure.
  •          You were working in service of the vessel when the harm occurred.
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