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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.
  • $4,400,000.00 jury award to a former shipmate who sustained a shoulder injury while at sea. The third mate had to undergo multiple surgeries and will not be able to become a captain because of the injury.
  • $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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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

The general rule-of-thumb that emerged from this ruling is that an individual must spend at least 30 percent of his or her time on a vessel in navigation to be considered employed in its service. Whether onboard labors performed at port count towards this may be left to the interpretation of the court.  

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