Articles Posted in Boating Accidents

An interesting case recently arose out of the Northern District of California. A ferry boat captain was found partially responsible for a collision in which he was using his cell phone in the minutes before his boat wrecked into a speedboat on the San Francisco Bay.

In February of 2013, Harry Holzhauer and David Rhoades were traveling by speedboat in the San Francisco Bay when a ferry crashed into their boat. The driver, Holzhauer, was killed in the collision and Rhoades, who owned the boat, was seriously injured. The widows of Holzhauer and Rhoades both filed claims against the ferry captain and the ferry owner, alleging the captain negligently used his cell phone immediately before the accident occurred.  At the trial, Plaintiffs presented evidence that showed that the ferry made a course and speed change about two minutes before the collision and that the captain of the ferry made a two-minute cell phone call at 4:07 pm, just before the 4:09 pm collision.

After hearing the evidence, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs in the amount of $5,276,306, broken down as $3,729,559 to Rhoades and $1,546,747 to Holzhauer. Further, the jury found the ferry Captain to be 30% at fault and Holtzhauer 70% at fault, reducing Holtzhauer’s award to $464,024.00.

A recent Fifth Circuit per curiam opinion proves to be a lesson for maritime and admiralty attorneys in how to preserve issues on appeal, particularly in Jones Act jury trials.

In 2014, Plaintiff Richard Bosarge applied for employment with Cheramie Marine, L.L.C. and was hired as a relief captain. While on duty, Mr. Bosarge sustained injuries to his back when he was tossed out of his bunk when his vessel hit a large wave. Cheramie responded by arguing that the waves were not violent and alleging that Mr. Bosarge never reported any injuries to his superiors, other than some seasickness.

Mr Bosarge sued his employer under the Jones Act to recover for his back injuries. During his pre-employment physical examination, Mr. Bosarge denied having any prior back pain or injury, although he had sought medical care for back pain in the past. At trial, Defendant’s medical expert was able to compare pre-injury and post-injury MRIs of Mr. Bosarge’s back, and testified that the post-injury MRI showed less injury than the pre-injury MRI. The jury returned a zero verdict and Plaintiff appealed.

Last month, the Court of Appeal for Louisiana’s Third Circuit affirmed a jury verdict of $125,000.00 in compensatory damages and $23,000,000.00 in punitive damages in favor of the plaintiff, Ron Warren, in a maritime products liability case.

The incident at the heart of the case took place over ten years ago. On May 7, 2005, Derek Hebert was riding in a small boat operated by David Vamvoras. They were traveling from Mr. Vamvoras’ home to the Lake Charles Country Club via a former channel of the Calcasieu River. During the trip, the boat’s steering system completely shut down, ejecting Hebert from the craft and into the path of the propeller. The propeller struck Hebert approximately nineteen times, killing him almost instantly.  A subsequent investigation of the accident revealed that the loss of a relatively small amount of hydraulic fluid resulted in the craft’s total loss of steering.  As a result, Warren filed suit for wrongful death and survival damages against numerous parties, including the manufacturer and designer of the boat’s steering system, Teleflex.

Warren alleged that Teleflex failed to warn boat owners and passengers of the potentially catastrophic danger caused by losing just a small amount of hydraulic fluid. At trial, evidence showed that Teleflex performed tests in 1989 and 2004 which revealed that the loss of only a few teaspoons of hydraulic fluid would result in the total failure of the steering system. Plaintiff further showed Teleflex had received thousands of complaints regarding hydraulic fluid loss, but Teleflex believed the problem occurred infrequently enough that a more specific warning was not justified. The jury disagreed and awarded Warren $23,000,000.00 in punitive damages.

Anthony Buffinet was aboard the Cry Baby, the fishing vessel Cry Baby, when it was struck by another vessel, according to the suit filed by Buffinet on March 29 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Purportedly, on March 25, 2013, the Cry Baby, owned and operated by Buffinet, was moored at dock in Leeville when it was struck by the DMO Resolve, owned and operated by Dale Martin Offshore LLC.  Buffinet’s suit names Dale Martin Offshore LLC as the defendant, asserting that the fault of the matter is their’s as they failed to maintain proper course and speed, failed to take preventative measures in averting the collision, and negligently operated their vessel.

In addition to damaging the Cry Baby, Buffinet himself was allegedly injured to such a degree that he has been unable to perform his usual duties and has been rendered disabled.  Additionally, he has suffered financial loss and mental pain.

After allegedly suffering a work injury, Lloyd Willis, an employee of United Fire & Safety, filed a lawsuit against Woods Group PSN Inc., Energy XXI USA Inc., and JNET LLC in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on February 16, citing negligence and failure of obligations.

According to the suit, on or about June 14, 2015, Willis was being transferred from a platform to the JNET vessel via a personnel basket attached to a crane.  JNET is owned by Energy XXI and was located in South Timbalier Block 26A in the Gulf of Mexico.  Willis alleges the basket struck the vessel with such force as to cause injury, and that the named defendants acted in a negligent manner when they failed to observe safety measures, failed to exercise reasonable care, and failed to provide proper tools and a safe work environment.

As a result of the blow, Willis allegedly suffered a possible ruptured disk, nerve damage, injuries to his bones, muscle joints, and organs, as well as general body trauma and resultant medical expenses.

A project supervisor is suing multiple companies for injuries allegedly sustained on a barge-loading job.

Dale E. Loveall Jr., individually and on behalf of his minor child, Sadie Loveall, and Robin Loveall, filed suit January 28 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against multiple defendants.  Nordic Underwater Services Inc., AMI Consulting Engineers P.A. Inc., ADM Grain River System Inc., and Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. are alleged to have negligently caused Loveall Jr.’s injuries.

The complaint states that the Loveall Jr. was hired by the defendants on or about February 18, 2015 to fix the pilings of the ADM Dock in Destrahan on the Mississippi River.  It is further asserted that Loveall Jr. was appointed project supervisor and was part of the crew of the American 12, a vessel owned by ADM or ADMC and provided by Nordic and/or AMI.  One of the tasks was required for the project was the transport of items from the American 12 to a barge.  According to the suit, the barge did not have a crane which required the crew, including the plaintiff, to lift all equipment, including several thousand pounds of cement bags, out of the American 12, above their heads, and onto the barge.

A lawsuit has been brought against Chevron for a shrimp boat that sank last year, allegedly due to an underwater and unmarked vessel owned by the company.

Hosea Wilson and Shajaun Turner filed suit on January 19 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against Chevron USA, Inc.  They claimed negligence on the part Chevron which resulted in damage to personal property and personal injury.

According to the suit, on March 19, Wilson and Turner were piloting a 36-foot Newton shrimp boat in Garden Island Bay in Plaquemines Parish.  It was at this time that their vessel collided with a submerged and unmarked vessel owned by Chevron.  The collision caused heavy hull damage to Wilson’s boat, and injured both men, according to the complaint.  Additionally, the hull damage was so severe that Wilson’s boat took on water and sank.

Two men’s routine fishing trip was literally and figuratively upheaved when another marine vessel’s high rate of speed resulted in the capsizing of their boat, allegedly leaving the two men with various injuries.

Benjamin Lee Hines, Sr., and Andreas Damone Vitto sued Southern States Offshore Inc. on January 7 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana., alleging negligence and personal injury liability.

According to the suit, the two men were fishing out of a recreational vessel around Maxie’s Grocery Store near Intercostal City in Vermillion Parish on September 27, 2014.  At a certain time that day, Southern States Offshore’s vessel, the Southern Belle, entered that waterway at an alleged high rate of speed.  The suit states that the rate was much too fast for prevailing conditions that day, and caused an intense wake.  It is this wake which allegedly capsized the boat Hines and Vitto were fishing out of, knocking both men into the water.

A three-vehicle crash in Delcambre resulted the death of an uncle and nephew from Abbeville, according to police reports.

On November 26, 2015, Jones Mitchell and Gerald Mitchell were traveling west on Suzuki motorcycles on LA 14 and approaching an east-west crossover.  An 18-wheeler, driven by Earnest Comesana Jr.,  was traveling east on LA 14 and approaching the same crossover.   Comesana turned left into the crossover to begin traveling east and the Mitchells were unable to avoid colliding with Comesana’s trailer as it entered their lane of travel.

Although the Mitchell’s were wearing Department of Transportation-approved helmets, both received fatal injuries as a result of the collision and were pronounced dead at the scene by the Iberia Parish Coroner’s Office.  Comensana was properly restrained at the time of the crash and received no injuries.

A tugboat captain has sued a fellow tug company as a result of an injury sustained while on the water, according to the filed complaint

Troy Matthiews, a tugboat captain for Bayou Vista, and Tracey, his wife, have filed suit against Crosby Tugs, citing negligence and personal injury stemming from an alleged incident occurring in 2014.

On November 30, 2014, Matthiews was attempting to cross from his boat, the Morgan Ray, to another tugboat, when both boats were passed by a third.  According to the complaint, the third boat, the Crosby Rambler, was going at an excessive rate of speed.  As a result, the wave generated in the Rambler’s wake knocked Matthiews off balance and tossed him between the two other boats, causing severe injury.