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Determining Ladder Liability for Longshoremen

For longshoremen in Manhattan, the process of loading and unloading ships can be a tough and grueling experience. This is especially true when faced with faulty or otherwise compromised equipment, such as ladders used to gain access to hard-to-reach areas of a boat. If you’re injured using a ladder, you may have questions regarding liability and whether the owner of the vessel is ultimately responsible to provide compensation. In this case, Pacific Maritime Magazine offers insight into this common issue.

The Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act

Longshoremen are covered under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, which provides two options to injured parties. A worker can file a claim and be compensated through insurance, or he can sue the owner of the boat he was working on. Previously, the act stated that vessel owners had a duty of seaworthiness, which meant they were responsible for any equipment that failed to meet the standard. However, this law changed in 1972 and as a result longshoreman had to show that the boat owner was negligent if an injury was incurred on their vessel.

How Negligence Is Proven

Because of the change it is now much more difficult to establish that a vessel owner was negligent in their review/care of equipment. Subsequent court rulings illustrate just how tough a task establishing negligence truly is. In 2001 a harbor worker sued a boat owner when he was injured by a broken ladder rung. While it was clear there was an issue with the equipment, the harbor worker could not provide evidence that owner was aware of the defect and still refused to act.

Another case involved a problem with ladder feet, which an injured worker suffered a fall after an unsecured ladder gave way. While the district court agreed with his claim, a Fifth Circuit Court failed to rule in his favor. It was stated that the fact the worker had missed identifying the defect himself showed that it was not unreasonable that the vessel owner had also missed it.

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