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1 maritime worker killed, 1 injured after pipes fall on ship

A ship carrying steel products from Houston recently experienced a serious workplace accident on board as cargo was being unloaded in Florida. In the course of unloading steel pipes, a crane's strap came apart, causing a load of 30-foot-long, 4-inch wide steel pipes to fall.

The falling pipes tragically resulted in the death of one worker and serious injuries to a second worker on the ship.

The bundles of pipes, with each pipe weighing a ton, added up to 10 tons in the dropped load. The pipes scattered, some hitting the dock, some striking the ship's deck and others falling into the ship's cargo hold. At the time of the accident, four workers were in the hold.

One of these workers, a 56-year-old man, was killed on the spot by the impact of the pipes. A second worker suffered injuries, which were characterized as non-life-threatening, and was rushed by air to a nearby hospital for evaluation and treatment. The other two workers in the cargo hold narrowly escaped injury.

As a result of the serious workplace accident, the injured worker and the family of the worker who was killed may have claims for personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against their employer or the ship's owner.

It is likely that the lawsuits, if filed, would be pursued under the federal Jones Act, which protects the rights and safety of maritime workers. The Jones Act requires that all ships at sea are "seaworthy," or safe to be used for their intended purpose.

When a maritime worker is injured on the job, he may sue his employer under a strict liability theory. This means the worker does not need to show that the employer knew the ship was unsafe, just that the ship was in fact unsafe and he was injured as a result.

Source: Bay News 9, "1 killed, 1 injured on ship as result of falling pipes," Josh Rojas, Oct. 23, 2012

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