Articles Posted in Workplace Accidents

Six of the nineteen people onboard a 129-foot commercial lift boat that capsized off the Louisiana coast Tuesday afternoon have been rescued so far. The vessel, the Seacor Power, had left port less than two hours before the accident and encountered rugged seas on its way out to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Coast Guard was on the scene within 30 minutes and several other good Samaritan vessels have been assisting the Coast Guard in the search and rescue operation.

Broussard & David offers their thoughts and prayers to family and friends of the missing crewmembers in this difficult time and hope that all crewmembers are safely rescued.

An average of 16,500 car accidents occur daily across the United States. In the blink of an eye, a rear-end car accident can completely turn one’s life upside down by causing life-altering injuries. Such an event can leave one lost as to what to do next, scared as to the daunting recovery process that lies ahead, and confused as to where to even begin. Some insight into the expected process of legal settlements may aid you or a loved one in making important decisions following a tragic accident.

In Louisiana, a car accident resulting in an injury, death, or property damage resulting in over $500 requires the parties by law to contact the local police department. Following the accident, an injured party should seek legal assistance. This will significantly offset the post-accident burdens of both filing a claim with the negligent party’s insurance company and gathering  supporting evidence like medical examinations, photos, and witness testimony.

Further, an attorney can file suit against a negligent party, thereby holding that party liable for their actions. The lawsuit must be brought within 1 year of the date of the accident or else the claim is forever lost. Once the legal process begins, parties will work tirelessly to reach what is known as a settlement. A settlement resolves the dispute by dropping the claim before reaching trial in return for a monetary compensation. Settlement processes can last anywhere from a few months to a few years depending on the severity of the injuries and the accident. In the settlement process, the injured party seeks recompense for physical pain and suffering, repair or replacement of their car, medical expenses, mental anguish from the accident, lost wages, as well as other forms of damages.

Following the December 14th Salt Mine collapse, Cargill recently decided to shutter its salt production on Avery Island. Though its lease expires at the end of 2021, Cargill stated that the business decision was based on future economics and production capacity after a slow winter. All operations at the mine have been suspended since the incident due ongoing federal investigations.

 

Eighteen employees of Cargill, a global food corporation, reported to work inside Avery Island’s Salt Mine on December 14th. Those employees’ lives would change within hours as the salt mine’s roof collapsed, leaving two employees stranded inside. 

 

24-hour search teams began looking for the missing employees immediately; although, the rescue was not successful until the next day. Around 3:00pm on December 15th, the search team found the first employee and identified him as 27-year-old Lance Begnaud. The second employee, 41-year-old Rene Romero, was found later that evening. Both suffered fatal injuries and were pronounced dead upon recovery. 

ST. MARTINVILLE, LA – November 11, 2019

A Jones Act seaman was injured on January 29, 2016, when his coworker was piloting an Oceaneering survey vessel at high speeds while on his phone and slammed into a piling in the Empire Canal (Plaquemines Parish). The plaintiff was on the back deck of the vessel, an admittedly common practice at Oceaneering at the time, and he was slammed into the cab upon impact injuring his back.

Oceaneering contested liability arguing that the plaintiff should not have been on the back deck of the vessel while traveling at high speeds. Plaintiff successfully recovered under the Jones Act and unseaworthiness claims based on evidence that the pilot was on the phone, the crew was improperly trained, and that Oceaneering failed to have rules regarding phone use while operating vessels, having a lookout, or passengers working on the back deck while moving.

A Harris County man is suing a Houston construction company following a work incident that left him with a broken ankle. Jose Louis Amador was working on a concrete removal project on Highway 249 when another worker mishandled the excavator that he was operating.

The suit states that Amador was cutting steel wire attached to the concrete barrier being removed when the excavator approached him. The operator of the excavator then tried to remove a large portion of the barrier that contained a piece of wire that had not been cut. Consequently, the barrier was pulled onto Amador’s leg, breaking his ankle. Apart from the physical pain of the injury, the inconvenience of regular medical appointments, and mental anguish, Amador’s sufferings also included the inability to return to work for an extended period of time.

Amador and his attorneys filed the complaint on April 30, 2019 in the Harris County District Court. It claims that the sister construction companies in charge of the project, Webber LLC and Webber Materials & Equipment LLC, exercised negligence in their failure to properly train and supervise their employees.

A Louisiana man is suing a Texas fishing captain following injuries suffered while working on the captain’s vessel. David Robling, the plaintiff, was working aboard the fishing boat, Red Bull, on February 20, 2019, when he suffered injuries resulting from the negligence and unseaworthiness of the ship-captain, Delbert E. Bull, Jr. The suit, filed in the Galveston County District Court, is in accord with the Jones Act, specifically 46 U.S.C. §30104, which protects seamen injured in the course of their employment and which affords them the right to legal action and a trial by jury against the ship’s owner.

According to Robling’s complaint, the ship’s captain, Bull, turned on the boat’s winch without warning the crew. As a result, the boards, nets, and tickler chains were thrown overboard. Without time to react, Robling found himself in the path of the chains, which wrapped around his chest and violently threw him to the deck of the boat. Unable to free himself, Robling was then struck by other falling equipment leading to injuries and mental anguish.

This is not Robling’s first legal encounter with Galveston’s maritime industry. In 2015, Robling filed a complaint against a shipping company after he tripped on equipment that the previous crew had left behind. The fall left Robling with serious and disabling injuries that could have been avoided had the ship’s owner or crew properly maintained the ship and its equipment or warned him of the existing hazards on deck.

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.