Archive for the ‘Work injuries’ Category

The legal implications when a ship capsizes

On April 14, we were rocked by the news that the lift boat Seacor Power had capsized in the Gulf of Mexico, south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana, with 19 crew members aboard. On April 19, we were saddened to hear that the Coast Guard would halt the search and rescue process, with six of the crew rescued, five confirmed dead, and eight still missing.

Unfortunately, some risk is inherent in maritime work, but maritime companies also have a legal responsibility to keep their employees safe. While the reasons the Seacor Power capsized are still under investigation, the incident underscores the importance of seamen’s rights under maritime law – and the need for those rights to be protected.

Ships capsize for many reasons, but most are linked to negligence

Even a large and well-engineered vessel can capsize under some circumstances, and most such accidents are preventable. The main reasons ships capsize include:

  • This was a major factor in the Seacor Power’s capsizing, with 80 to 90 mph winds and seven- to nine-foot seas at the time the vessel overturned. While no one can control the weather, weather-related incidents are often preventable. Storm tracking and navigation allow ships to avoid hazardous situations, and ships themselves can be engineered to cope with storms and rough waters. It’s also important to rapidly react to changing circumstances at sea.
  • When a ship collides with a dock, bridge, rock, reef, or another vessel, a hole can be ripped in the hull. A ship that starts taking on water is at immediate risk of capsizing.
  • Taking on water starts a chain reaction that can result in sinking or capsizing. The more water a ship takes on, the less buoyant it becomes, which causes it to sink deeper and potentially take on more water. Flooding can occur due to weather, collisions, or leaks in the hull.
  • Shifting cargo. When cargo isn’t properly secured, it can move around below decks. When enough weight moves to one side or the other, the entire ship can become unstable and overturn.
  • Human error. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of both the maritime company and the captain of the ship to make decisions that minimize the risk of capsizing.

Victims and their families have legal rights

When a ship capsizes and seamen are injured, they have recourse under the Jones Act, as well as general maritime law. The Jones Act allows injured seamen to take legal action against their employers to recover damages (financial compensation) for lost earnings and lost earning capacity; past, present, and future medical expenses; and pain and suffering. These damages can be substantial, particularly if an injured seaman is left permanently disabled or develops a medical condition, such as chronic pain.

In addition, the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) allows families who have lost a loved one to recover “pecuniary damages,” meaning losses the family members have sustained due to the death that can be calculated with a degree of precision. For instance, it’s possible under the DOHSA to recover damages for lost financial support provided by the person who died, but not for loss of intangibles, such as care and companionship. However, the Jones Act provides significantly more expansive death benefits when the deceased seaman’s employer is responsible for the death. For instance, if a seaman dies in a collision between two vessels, the deceased seaman’s family could take legal action against the seaman’s employer under the Jones Act and the other ship’s owner under the DOHSA.

On the other side of a personal injury or wrongful death claim is the Shipowner’s Limitation of Liability Act, which the owner of the ship can invoke to limit their liability to the post-accident value of the vessel. When a ship capsizes or sinks and becomes worthless, this is potentially devastating. However, the Limitation of Liability Act has its limitations, and an experienced maritime injury lawyer can take legal action to defend against petitions to limit liability.

In short, if you were hurt or lost a loved one when a ship capsized, you need to seek legal advice right away. Our attorneys will listen to your story and work with you to determine your best path forward under maritime law. We would be honored to discuss your legal options in a free consultation.

Worker dies after fall into water at Marathon Galveston Bay docks

TEXAS CITY, TX: Authorities have not released the name of a worker who died today after a fall into the water while working at the Marathon Galveston Bay docks. The worker, a scaffolding contractor, fell around 11:15 a.m. today, September 12, 2016. His body was recovered by the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office dive team around 4:00 p.m. Channel 2’s news story reports that the worker fell when the scaffolding collapsed, and describes him as a Marathon Petroleum Corp. contract worker. According to the news story, four other contract employees were on the scaffolding at Dock # 34 at the time of the collapse. Another workers attempted to dive in and save the man who drowned.

One killed in explosion at PeroxyChem plant in Pasadena

One worker was killed and two were injured when a chemical tank exploded at the PeroxyChem plant in Pasadena on Saturday January 16th. PeroxyChem officials say that the dead worker is a contractor and the two injured workers are employees. Although the specifics of the incident are still under investigation, routine maintenance was taking place when the blast occurred.

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Fieldwood Energy Echo platform explosion kills contract worker

One contract worker has been killed and three others seriously injured in an explosion on Fieldwood Energy’s Echo platform, 12 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The oil and gas platform was apparently not in production at the time and no pollution has been reported. Fieldwood Energy is a Houston-based company with an office in Lafayette, Louisiana.

KHOU’s story; ABC Channel 13’s story; Channel 2’s story

Robert and Gilberto Tisnado victims of DuPont chemical plant leak

Brother Robert and Gilbert Tisnado have been identified as two of the four people killed in a  leak at DuPont’s LaPorte, Texas chemical plant Saturday morning. The brothers had worked together at the DuPont chemical facility for the past six years; when the leak first started, Gilbert rushed in wearing a gas mask to try and save his brother. Robert Tisnado is survived by his wife and three children; Gilbert leaves behind two children and five grandchildren.

Update: Channel 2 is reporting that the audio recordings of 911 calls have been obtained and show that a DuPont supervisor reporting the incident and seeking emergency assistance was not sure what kind of chemical was released, but did feel confident enough to tell the 911 dispatcher that there was no threat to the public. The two other victims killed in the incident have been identified as Crystle Rae Wise and Wade Baker.

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Robert Tisnado, left, and his brother Gilbert Tisnado

Saturday’s deadly accident occurred when, according to DuPont company spokesperson Aaron Woods, a valve at the LaPorte, Texas plant failed to contain a chemical called methyl mercaptan, something that is typically used in the manufacture of insect poison. A fifth worker was injured in the incident, and is reportedly conscious and talking in hospital. One of the workers killed was a supervisor with 40-years experience. Woods said that while the chemical is very dangerous in concentrated form, once it disperses in the air it is no longer a threat. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is sending a seven person team to investigate the incident and try to determine a cause.

Explosion at American Materials plant in Missouri City injures workers

Two workers have been seriously injured in an explosion and fire at the American Materials ready mix plant in Missouri City, Texas. The explosion happened around 4:30 p.m. at the asphalt plant. The names of the injured workers have not been released. It took firefighters about an hour to bring the fire under control using foam.

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American Materials plant in Missouri City Texas

Chevron contractor killed in natural gas pipeline incident off Louisiana coast

One contractor was killed and two others were injured while performing maintenance on a natural gas pipeline off the Louisiana coast yesterday. The incident happened around 11:10 a.m. Saturday September 13th; there were a total of four workers on the Chevron Pipe Line Co. platform at the time. Company spokesman Gareth Johnstone told the press he did not know what had caused the incident. The name of the deceased worker has not yet been released. The two injured workers were taken by helicopter to a waiting ambulance but declined to be transported to the emergency room.

Workers at Terra at Piney Point Apartments electrocuted and burned

Two workers were seriously burned in an electrocution incident at the Terra at Piney Point Apartments, located at Fondren Road and Woodway Drive in Houston. The two men, who did not work for the apartment complex, were using a ladder to do some painting to the exterior of the apartments. The ladder slipped somehow, causing the men to come into contact with an electrical wire. According to witness Cheryl French, interviewed by KHOU, one of the men’s head was on fire. Both men suffered severe burns.

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Photo credit: KHOU

Georgia Pacific plant explosion in Corrigan, Texas – at least 9 injured

At least nine people were taken to hospital Saturday evening, some of them by life flight helicopter, after an explosion at the Georgia Pacific plant in Corrigan, Texas. The explosion happened around 6:15 p.m. and was followed by a fire that took fire crews about an hour to bring under control. Corrigan Police Chief Darrell Gibson said several of the victims were severely burned; five were transported by helicopter. Georgia Pacific is based in Atlanta, GA and manufactures paper products including household names such as Dixie cups and Brawny paper towels.

Channel 11’s report says the plant manufactures plywood, and that firefighters said the apparent cause of the incident was a problem with the plants sawdust collection system. The East Texas town of Corrigan is in Polk County, Texas and has a population around 1,600.

Media coverage of the Georgia Pacific plant explosion: Channel 2 Houston

Oilfield worker electrocuted to death in southwest Houston oil field

One worker was killed and  second worker hospitalized when the equipment they were in made contact with an electrical line in a southwest Houston oil field today. The tragedy unfolded this afternoon on Blueridge Road and McHard. Few other details were included in Channel 2’s report. KHOU’s report states the two men were in critical condition, as opposed to one being killed. A sign on the property were the accident happened lists Maverick Drilling & Exploration. ABC Channel 13’s report states that an oil field crane hit the electrical wire, causing it to fall onto at least two workers.

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Photo credit: Channel 2 News

Electrocution injuries in the workplace | Smith & Hassler: Houston wrongful death attorneys