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Appellate Court Upholds 2.77 Million Dollar Verdict For Injured Fisherman

The First Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a 2.77 million dollar verdict for clam boat crewman Wojciech Bielunas, who suffered a severely fractured foot. Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC represented Bielunas at trial and on appeal. A jury awarded Bielunas the compensation following a two-week jury trial in Boston in the summer of 2009.

The employer, F/V Misty Dawn, had appealed the verdict as excessive and sought to have the Appellate Court reduce the size of the award. The Appellate Court noted the seriousness of Bielunas' injury and the lifelong suffering that Bielunas was likely to endure for the remainder of his life. The Court pointed to evidence that the treating surgeon had testified that following the accident Bielunas' foot looked like someone had taken a sledge hammer to it. In refusing to reduce the approximately $2,000,000 in pain and suffering damages, the Court found the award to not be shocking or lavish and refused to upset the decision of the jury and the District Court that heard the evidence. In upholding the award the Court noted that the jury had not acted out of passion or prejudice and had reduced the crewman's gross verdict by 15% for comparative fault.

The Bielunas case importantly affirms the jury's role in determining damages for an injury victim. The First Circuit rejected the vessel owner's attempt to compare Bielunas' verdict to other verdicts from other jurisdictions, finding that each case should stand on its own merit and that it was not necessary to compare cases involving dissimilar traumas, dates and locations of trials, and evidence presented.

Other arguments of error in the trial court proceeding were also dismissed by the Appellate Court. The case is Bielunas v. F/V Misty Dawn, United States First Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 09-2048 (October 8, 2010).

Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC represents injured crewmen located throughout the nation. The focus of their practice is maritime injury claims involving the Jones Act and unseaworthiness claims. They have handled multimillion dollar injury claims involving fishing boats, tug boats, helicopter accidents, trucking accidents, and professional negligence. Recent noteworthy cases they have handled include a $2.3 million punitive damage award for failure to pay maintenance and cure, and sinkings of the Alaska fishing vessels ARCTIC ROSE, ALASKA RANGER, and KATMAI.

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