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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4 Important Takeaways From The El Faro Report

The long-awaited Coast Guard report on the 2015 sinking of the cargo ship El Faro revealed what many had suspected. The captain and the ship’s owner were largely responsible for the tragic sinking, which resulted in 33 deaths, making it one of the largest maritime accidents in U.S. history.

The report, which was released at the end of September, revealed extensive safety violations related to training, staffing, decision-making and the ship itself. Here are four major findings from the report.

1. The ship was not ship-shape. The El Faro was due for major retrofits when it set off on the voyage to San Juan. Under maritime law, it is the ship’s owner’s responsibility to provide a seaworthy vessel. In many ways, the El Faro fell short of being entirely seaworthy. For example, the ship still had only open-top lifeboats, which offer little hope of survival in a hurricane.

2. The captain made criminal mistakes. The decision to sail into – and not around - Hurricane Joaquin ultimately came from the captain, who died in the sinking. Had he not died, he would have faced negligence charges from the Coast Guard and likely had his license revoked.

3. The ships owner violated safety requirements. The ship should have had a safety office onboard, but the ship’s owner, TOTE, had not filled the position, and the ship sailed without one. Meanwhile, in part because of inadequate crew on board, crew members were foregoing rest periods, in violation of regulations – which in turn led to fatigue and decreased decision-making abilities.

4. The crew was not well trained. Even though the ultimate responsibility lay with the captain and the ship owner’s, crew members made mistakes as well. In addition to the impacts of fatigue, many of the crew member’s mistakes were due to inadequate training - again the responsibility of their employer.

Surviving family members, politicians and many others are calling for changes in the wake of the report. We’ll be closely following any changes in law and regulations that do occur.

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