Articles Posted in Workplace Accidents

Royal Caribbean International may have to pay $20.3 million to a former employee, who badly injured her hand while working on board a Miami-based cruise line, Voyager of the Seas, which was sailing out of Barcelona, Spain. In August of 2008, Lisa Spearman, a marketing and revenue manager for the cruise ship, severely injured her hand after attempting to help a nurse. While in port, the cruise ship conducted a routine fire safety drill. During this drill, some of the vessel’s semi-water right doors closed and one of the ship’s nurses she tripped and fell when she attempted to open and pass through one of the doors. The plaintiff jumped in to help the nurse, but when the plaintiff placed her hand on the door handle in an attempt to keep the door open, the door swung back and pinned the plaintiff’s hand. The nurse was unharmed, but the plaintiff suffered a broken middle finger, broken index finder, and the nails on both fingers were ripped from the cuticles.

After the injury, Royal Caribbean referred Spearman to a doctor in Barcelona. This doctor misdiagnosed her condition and incorrectly treated her injuries. Spearman participated in physical therapy for two years following the incident, while Royal Caribbean paid her a daily disability payment of $25.00, the amount stipulated in her employee disability insurance coverage. Two years after her injury, Royal Caribbean dismissed Spearman, stating that her injury prevented her from performing necessary safety tasks, such as lifting 50 pounds.

In 2016, Spearman brought suit against Royal Caribbean alleging the company was negligent regarding the door, failed to provide proper medical care, fired her for a non-performance related reason, and breached her employment contract by refusing to pay her full wages. After a three-week jury trial, the jury found Royal Caribbean at fault and ordered the cruise line to pay the plaintiff $20.3 million in damages, lost wages, and future medical expenses. Royal Caribbean will be appealing the decision of the trial court.

In Arceneaux v. Turner, et al., the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a Lafayette trial court’s ruling that denied uninsured motorist coverage to a plaintiff. The plaintiff, Gerald Arceneaux, owned a towing company. In November of 2014, he was involved in a car accident while driving a 2012 Ford F250. In a sworn affidavit, Arceneaux stated that he was “on call” when the accident occurred and that the truck he was driving was outfitted with all tools and equipment necessary for any road side service request. Typically, Arceneaux would drive a Ford F450, but that vehicle was in need of repairs. After the accident, Arceneaux filed suit and sought uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage from his insurer. The insurer defended by filing a motion for summary judgment claiming that the policy did not provide coverage for the plaintiff’s claims.  The trial court granted the motion and Arceneaux appealed to the Third Circuit.

On appeal, the issue before the court was whether the F250 Arceneaux drove on the day of the accident could be considered a “temporary substitute vehicle” for Gerald Towing’s Ford F450 Wrecker. Citing Louisiana law, the defendant-insurer argued that Arceneaux could not recover, because he was operating his personal vehicle at the time of the accident and that the F250 was not a covered vehicle under the policy.  However, Arceneaux countered that under the policy the Ford F250 was a “replacement motor vehicle covered under the terms of the policy.” Moreover, the policy states that insureds are anyone occupying a “covered auto” or a “temporary substitute for a covered auto.” To support his claim, Arceneaux pointed to his sworn affidavit in which he stated that the F450 was in need of repairs on the date of the accident, and that he used the Ford F250 to perform work that could or would have been completed by the F450, if it was in service.

Turning to the facts and evidence, the Third Circuit agreed with the plaintiff that the Ford F250 served as a temporary substitute for a covered vehicle, specifically the Ford F450 Wrecker. Therefore, Arceneaux was an insured under the policy at the time of the accident and could potentially recover under his UM coverage. The Third Circuit reversed the trial court’s grant of the insurer’s motion to summary judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.

On the morning of Sunday, May 20, 2018, a helicopter crash in a marsh in St. Charles Parish claimed the life of one crew member and injured two others. None of the victims resided in Louisiana. One passenger died from his injuries in the crash and was pronounced dead at the scene. Another crewman suffered severe injuries possibly a fractured spine, but the pilot sustained less severe injuries. The pilot and crewmen worked for a company that Entergy subcontracted with to conduct routine inspections on transmission lines. According to the investigation, the helicopter’s landing gear caught on one of the power lines and caused the crash.

Three friends preparing for a cookout heard the crash and jumped into action to rescue any survivors. Due to the marshy terrain, the three men jumped into an amphibious vehicle to get to the crash site. Upon approaching the crash site, the men described a “frightening” scene with smoke billowing and the marsh grass ablaze around the downed helicopter. The rescuers took the crew’s helmets and started scooping marsh water onto the flames. One of the men took the pilot to a nearby road in order to direct first responders to the crash site. First responders were able to access the crash site via airboat and rescue the two survivors.

After an unfortunate crash like this one, Louisiana Law provides remedies for victims to recover for their injuries. Since the crash occurred during the course and scope of the passengers’ employment, the injured victims may seek worker’s compensation. Moreover, the family of the deceased crewmen may bring a wrongful death action pursuant to Louisiana Civil Code article 2315.2. The family members have one year from the date of this crash to bring the action to recover.

A jury in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana-Lafayette Division returned a verdict of $4,271,300.00 to an Iberia Parish resident who was injured while working at a Cameron facility at the Port of Iberia. Jerome Moroux, partner at Broussard & David, LLC, was lead counsel for the plaintiff. This is the fourth consecutive seven or eight figure verdict by Broussard & David, LLC.

The plaintiff was an employee of a trucking company/contractor on the day of the accident. Plaintiff’s employer had been contracted by Cameron to assist Cameron in loading a 300,000 pound piece of equipment on to plaintiff’s employer’s transporter. The job was shared between the companies, with Cameron performing the crane lift and Cameron/plaintiff’s co-employees working on securing the load. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was kneeling on the transporter and in the process of using a ratchet binder to secure the equipment to the transporter. While operating the binder, the ratchet binder came apart and plaintiff fell four feet to the ground. There was evidence that one of Cameron’s employees had handled the ratchet binder and given it to plaintiff’s co-employee before the accident.

Cameron denied liability completely, arguing that they had hired plaintiff’s employer to perform the work based on its experience and expertise; further, Cameron argued, that the failure of the ratchet binder was Bayard’s employer’s  fault—not Cameron’s. The evidence proved that Cameron actively participated in the job and was operating the crane while the accident happened. At trial, plaintiff offered expert and lay testimony confirming that, under both company and industry standards, the crane operator had several duties and responsibilities, including insuring that the proper tools for the job were examined before the job began and that the plaintiff’s employer performed and attended pre-job safety briefings. Secondly, Cameron failed to follow its own company rules with respect to pre-job planning. Plaintiff’s safety expert was Mr. Robert Borison.

In an important maritime law decision protecting seaman all over the county, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Louisiana verdict secured for an injured maritime worker. Attorney Blake R. David (lead counsel) and J. Derek Aswell of Broussard & David represented the plaintiff. Guidry v. Tanner Marine, 16-61 (La. App. 3rd Cir. 10/19/16), 206 So.3d 378, writ denied (La. 1/23/17) 209 So.3d 90; writ denied (U.S. 6/12/17) 2017 WL 1494663.

In Guidry v. Tanner Services, a St. Landry Parish trial court found Ernest Guidry to be a seaman under the Jones Act and awarded general and special damages of $3,885,911.69. A 16,000 pound vibrating hammer fell on Guidry causing the amputation of his four fingers, a crushed foot, herniated discs in his neck and back, concussion, depression, post-traumatic stress, and total and permanent disability. The verdict was upheld by the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court of Louisiana, and the Supreme Court of the United States — the final judgment with judicial interest totaled over $4,280,000.00.

Defendant, Tanner Services, LLC, was awarded a contract to construct a bulkhead in Grand Isle, Louisiana beginning in January 2012. The Defendant used three barges and two tugboats to move the equipment, supplies, and store materials, as well as to act as “floating docks” or “work stations” for a crane and preparatory welding. The project also used floating mats described as a large piece of wood similar to a “raft.” Guidry spent the majority of his time on the floating raft. Previously, Guidry had been strictly a land-based shop welder for Tanner. The trial court found that he was reassigned to do maritime work, and that this reassignment changed his status to a Jones Act seaman who can recover for his catastrophic losses from his at-fault employer. The court also found that the raft was an appurtenance to the crane barge.

Jerome Moroux of the law firm Broussard and David, recently obtained a settlement of over $3.2MM on behalf of an offshore worker who sustained  an injury while entering a vessel in Vermilion Parish. The incident was unwitnessed and occurred as the worker was crossing the gangway that was not properly secured on the vessel.

Initially, the worker believed he had sustained only a twisted ankle. As he continued working offshore, however, plaintiff’s pain continued to worsen. He was ultimately diagnosed with CRPS in his right ankle and received a spinal cord stimulator in his low back for right ankle pain. Plaintiff also treated for depression following his injury.

The case was defended by ABC Boats and Doe’s employer, which denied liability and the extent of damages claimed. As to liability, defendants asserted that plaintiff misjudged the step from the gangway to the deck; defendants focused on the fact that plaintiff had provided multiple accounts of the accident to his various doctors and company representatives. Additionally, ABC Boats’s Captain testified that he observed the gangway one hour before the accident and it was properly secured; also, three passengers boarded the vessel in the hour before plaintiff and had no problems with the gangway. Concerning damages, defendants questioned the diagnosis of CRPS and denied that plaintiff’s psychological trauma were in any way related to the accident.

Blake R. David of the maritime law firm Broussard & David, LLC obtained a jury verdict of $3,885,911.69 on behalf of a welder who sustained injuries when a vibrating hammer fell and struck him. The verdict, awarding general damages and pre-judgment interest was affirmed by the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal. On January 23, 2017, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied the application for writ of certiorari on general damages and seaman status – allowing the award to stand.

Plaintiff Ernest L. Guidry, was a welder for Defendant Tanner Services, LLC for approximately two years before he was seriously injured. The defendant was awarded a contract to build a bulkhead on Grand Isle. Tanner had both land division and maritime division crews. Plaintiff had previously worked for Tanner as a shop welder in Eunice, Louisiana, but was reassigned to the Tanner Marine Division before his injury. The project utilized three barges and two tugboats on which a floating mat and other supplies were housed. After the reassignment, Plaintiff spent his working time on the water performing preparatory work for the project, which included welding connectors, welding sheet piles, and cutting holes in the sheet piles. Plaintiff also attended job safety analysis meetings each morning on vessels with the marine division crew. Plaintiff spent approximately 90% of his time working on the water, particularly the floating mat. Plaintiff was severely injured when the vibrating hammer used to drive in piles fell and struck him. The strike caused Plaintiff to fall into the water and caused multiple injuries, including a crushed foot, a concussion, herniated discs, depression, anxiety, the amputation of four fingers, and total and permanent disability.

Defendant contended Plaintiff was not entitled to seaman status under the Jones Act, barring recovery under that statute for the serious and permanent injuries Plaintiff sustained. However, both the trial court and Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal disagreed. Both courts found Plaintiff contributed to the vessel’s function and accomplishment of the vessel’s mission and the plaintiff’s connection to the vessel fleet was substantial in duration and nature because of the amount of time he spent on the floating mat and the work he performed on the mat. These facts entitled Plaintiff to seaman status under the Jones Act, making that statute an avenue of recovery for the severe injuries Plaintiff received. Additionally, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal found that the award of general damages and prejudgment interest on the damages was not an abuse of discretion.

Jerome Moroux of the law firm Broussard & David, LLC recently obtained a jury verdict of over $1.4 Million on behalf of a railroad worker who sustained significant injuries when an unsecured steel rail fell onto him.

Plaintiff was a truck driver on the railroad.  As the truck driver, plaintiff was responsible for securing each steel rail individually as it was loaded on to the truck from the rail yard; however, on the day of the accident, plaintiff and the foreman loaded several rails without tying them down, intending to secure them all at once. Discovery indicated that the foreman was lax about safety oversight and that his crews routinely did not secure rails in the manner the railroad required.

While plaintiff’s foreman was operating the crane, the boom struck an unsecured rail, causing the rail to fall from the truck. The rail grazed plaintiff’s back, causing plaintiff to fall and strike his head. Plaintiff suffered a fractured ankle, a deep bruise/hematoma in his lower back, and a concussion. Over the course of two years, plaintiff underwent surgical repair of his ankle, as well as extensive treatment for his seroma/wound care in his lower back.  Additionally, plaintiff underwent a two level ACDF and treatment for post-concussive syndrome and anxiety and depression.  Plaintiff’s treating physicians testified that he would be restricted to light duty and more likely than not would need a back surgery sometime in the future.  A vocational rehabilitation counselor testified that plaintiff would not be able to return to work on the railroad.

In November of 2012, Carrie Marchiafava, 85, parked her car in the parking lot of Casey Jones Supermarket and went inside. When Mrs. Marchiafava returned to her vehicle, she found someone had parked too close to her passenger side door, making it difficult for her to back out.

Store employee William Sarradet attempted to assist Mrs. Marchiafava by backing her car out for her, but left the driver-side door open as he reversed the vehicle out of its parking spot. The open door knocked Marchiafava down and the car rolled over her. According to court records, Mrs. Marchiafava was dragged under the car for a distance. Sarradet then put the car back into drive and accelerated into the parking spot, rolling over Marchiafava again.

Mrs. Marchiafava was taken to a New Orleans hospital where doctors attempted to save her life. She suffered numerous broken bones and her skin was torn away from the tissue in several places.  Mrs. Marchiafava underwent multiple surgeries and survived for over a month before succumbing to her injuries.

A multi-car accident at a traffic jam in St. Martin Parish gave rise to a lawsuit filed in Lafayette earlier this month. Ronald P. Clauhs and Joseph Dimitri sued to recover damages for personal injuries against Scott J. Liriano and Liriano Motors, LLC. Suit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette Division on June 6, 2016.

According to the complaint, the accident occurred on December 23, 2015 when Clauhs was driving a vehicle owned by Dimitri, who was the passenger at the time of the wreck. While travelling on I-10 eastbound in St. Martin Parish, Clauhs observed traffic congestion ahead and stopped behind the line of cars in his lane. Two more vehicles stopped behind plaintiffs’ vehicle. At that point, a company truck owned by Liriano Motors and driven by Liriano collided with last car in line behind the plaintiffs’ vehicle. The force of the impact triggered a chain reaction, which caused the plaintiffs’ vehicle to be rear-ended by the vehicle behind them. Liriano was cited by the Louisiana State Police for careless operation.

Plaintiffs’ complaint makes allegations against both Liriano and his employer, Liriano Motors. The allegations against the employer include that Liriano was working at the time of the accident and was therefore in the course and scope of his employment with Liriano Motors. Because Liriano was on a mission for his employer when the accident occurred, plaintiffs allege that Liriano Motors is vicariously liable for the accident. Plaintiffs also allege that Liriano Motors, as the owner of the truck, negligently entrusted the company vehicle to Liriano.

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