Jury awards $5.4MM for Jones Act seaman with permanent nerve injury

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.

The plaintiff’s life was forever altered by this allision. Before this incident, he was a 43-year-old field project manager for Oceaneering making about $90,000.00/year. He was a leader at Oceaneering and a valued employee. That was his identity. He had zero physical limitations.

His five treating doctors unanimously testified about his real and objective complaints and disability based on his L5 nerve stretch injury. Even the Oceaneering IME diagnosed L5 radiculopathy while documenting “obvious atrophy,” asymmetrical reflexes, palpable spasm, demonstrated weakness, and recommended “no activity.” Oceaneering seized on the lack for frank herniated disks, though two EMG/NCV studies confirmed the nerve injury, and the MRIs confirmed the facet injuries.

The plaintiff’s non-surgical condition is permanent, requires a cane for the rest of his life, epidural steroid and trigger point injections in his low back, medication, injections in his right shoulder, and he was catheterized at the time of trial due to his back and nerve condition. His treating psychologists explained the effects of this chronic pain and depression on Dave’s life and identity.

After a five-day trial, the St. Martin Parish jury awarded $5,450,000, with $1,070,000 in past and future lost earnings, $3,000,000 in future medical care, and $1,350,000 in past and future physical and mental pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. The award is also subject to over 18% judicial interest and court and trial costs.

 

D.D. v. Oceaneering International, Inc., et al (La. 16th J.D.C., St. Martin Parish, 11/8/2019)

Counsel: Blake R. David and Robert Brahan of Broussard & David, LLC (Lafayette)

Experts: Dr. Darren Strother, neuropsychology (Lafayette), Jeff Peterson, vocational rehabilitation and life care (Lake Charles); John Theriot, economist (Metairie).

It is important when selecting a maritime law firm to choose one that knows the law and path to recovery. The attorneys at Broussard & David have the experience, knowledge, and resources necessary to prosecute offshore, maritime, and admiralty claims to their fullest. If you or a loved one has suffered harm as a result of the negligence of another, contact the attorneys at Broussard & David to discuss your legal rights at (337) 233-2323 (local) or (888) 337-2323 (toll-free).

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