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Deckhand sues after falling from unstable ladder

When a maritime worker from Texas or elsewhere is injured at sea due to his or her employer's negligence, the worker can often sue for damages. The good news is that a different standard of proof applies to workers on all types of maritime vessels, including boats, ships, barges, tugboats, cruise ships, tour boats, fishing vessels, drilling vessels and ferries.

Unlike traditional workplace injury lawsuits where workers must prove that the employer knew or should have known that a dangerous workplace condition existed, maritime workers can sue their employers under a strict liability theory. This means the worker only has to prove that the ship or vessel was unsafe and that he or she was injured as a result.

This difference is spelled out in federal laws protecting maritime workers, such as the Jones Act. In a recent Jones Act lawsuit, a maritime worker sued his employer after falling from an unstable ladder and sustaining injuries. The plaintiff was working as a deckhand aboard the M/V Born Again at the time of the accident.

According to the lawsuit, the worker was helping to tie-off of two empty barges and a crane barge while standing on a stepladder propped up against one of the empty barges. Apparently, the ladder came loose, causing the worker to fall to the deck of the crane barge. The worker states that he struck his lower back on a steel bit on the deck of the crane barge, leaving him seriously injured.

In the lawsuit against American Tugs and Molly Lee Towing, the worker charges that the defendants were negligent by ordering the crew to work in unsafe conditions. More specifically, the worker says that the defendants negligently failed to provide adequate equipment aboard the vessel and failed to provide adequate personnel to perform the barge tie-off operation. Other acts of negligence were cited in the lawsuit as well.

The worker is seeking an unspecified amount of damages for physical pain and suffering, mental pain, suffering and anguish, medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, disfigurement and disability, loss of enjoyment of life, maintenance, cure, interest, court costs and attorney's fees.

Source: The Louisiana Record, "Seaman sues after falling off of unstable ladder," Michelle Keahey, May 8, 2012

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