Supervisors aboard a drilling vessel instructed a driller to improperly use chain tongs to align a riser telescopic joint. The driller became trapped in an unexpected pinch point between the chain tongs and the riser running tool. He suffered severe injuries to his spine, lower back, and hip, but ultimately received around $1 million in Maintenance and Cure compensation.
In September 2016, a Jones Act Seaman was working aboard a drilling vessel. As part of his job duties, he attempted to connect the riser running tool to the top of the riser telescopic joint. However, during the connection process, the joint and the riser tool became misaligned. The seaman’s supervisors suggested the use of a chain hoist to correct the problem.
While a driller operated the chain hoist, the seaman stood between the chain tongs and the riser running tool. Though he attempted to rotate the riser running tool, the solid boy elevator slid down the barrel and caused the seaman to be pinned between the chain tongs and the plate on the riser running tool. The seaman’s supervisors were present throughout the course of the accident, watching from inside the drill shack.
The seaman immediately sought medical care and was ibuprofen for his pain. At the time he was treated, the medical provider noted scratches on the seaman’s lower left back. He returned to work immediately, but it soon became apparent that his injuries were more severe than initially thought. Nearly 10 days after his accident the seaman’s back was still causing him pain, so he was referred to a physician for further evaluation.
Test results confirmed that the seaman had suffered more than the just the superficial bruises and scratches noted at the time of his accident. He had sustained serious, long-term, debilitating injuries to his spine and hip. An MRI from October of 2016 (one month after the accident) showed several herniated discs in his lumbar spine. Our client’s back pain persisted into the following year, and a CT scan revealed that he had sustained several lumbar spinal fractures. In addition to his spinal injuries, this seaman’s hip was severely damaged. An MRI over one year after his accident showed that his hip cartilage was fraying and possibly torn. Given the extensiveness of his injuries and ongoing pain, the seaman was prescribed steroid injections and told not to lift more than 10 pounds. In short, he was in no condition to return to his former work, which necessitated heavy lifting and being on his feet for much of the day.
As a result of his extensive injuries, the seaman was entitled compensation under the Jones Act. In this case, we argued that the defendant was negligent on several counts.
First, the equipment wasn’t lined up properly at the start of the task which was the contributing reason for the use of chain tongs.
Next, the decision to use chain tongs to correct the misalignment between the riser running tool and the telescopic joint was a poor one. Yet, the supervisors aboard the drilling vessel made the decision not only to use chain tongs in an unfit manner, but they also failed to properly train the seaman in their use.
Finally, though the supervisors were present during the entire process, they at no time attempted to stop the seaman from standing between the chain tongs and the plate on the riser running tool.
Because the seaman was unfit to return to his duty, we filed for compensation under several categories of expenses:
After calculating for the above expenses and arguing on our client’s behalf, this case settled for just over $1 million in maintenance and cure benefits.