We recently settled a Jones Act case for our client who sustained debilitating brain and spine injuries while at sea. In June of 2016, a 50-year-old tankerman was completing a fuel transfer between a bunker barge (S-45) and an ocean-going cargo vessel.
As he stripped the diesel oil tanks on the S-45, the tankerman was paying close attention to the task at hand. During this critical portion of the fuel transfer, it’s important that the tankerman watch the gauge closely otherwise too much fuel will be removed from the oil tanks.
Meanwhile, another crew member aboard the cargo vessel was trying to signal our client. In order to get his attention, the crew member deliberately threw his hardhat down at our client 60 feet below. The hardhat struck our client in the head and severely injured both his head and neck.
Our client’s head and neck injuries caused him a great deal of pain, and he sought immediate treatment at both a local hospital and an urgent care. Despite five months of conservative treatment including physical therapy and steroid shots, he was still plagued by severe neck pain. Eventually, he was referred to an orthopedic surgeon who performed a four-level spinal fusion surgery.
Our client’s problems weren’t over though. In addition to his neck issues, an MRI showed that he had sustained damage to the left side of his brain. This long-term damage negatively impacted our client’s mental functioning to the point that he could not successfully perform the duties of a tankerman.
We filed a Jones Act case on behalf of our client claiming that our client’s employer was liable for the cost of his treatments and his lost income. Even though our client was injured by his coworker, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe workplace.
Despite the MRI which clearly demonstrated a traumatic brain injury, the defense argued that our client had not sustained any brain injuries at all. They even accused him of intentionally scoring low on cognitive tests.
To further complicate the case, the company argued that the crewmember who threw the hardhat was not actually 60 feet above the client. Therefore the hardhat could not have hit him with enough force to cause the injuries he sustained.
Both of these arguments were countered by our legal team, and the case settled for seven figures. Our client was compensated for his medical costs as well as for wages lost because of his decreased mental functioning.