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New Maritime Law Cases Archives

Seattle Fishing Company Sued Over Wrongful Death of Crewman

A maritime wrongful death suit has been filed in Washington State King County Superior Court against Aleutian Spray Fisheries and Siberian Sea Fisheries. The suit was filed on behalf of the Estate of Russell Jennings and seeks unspecified damages. The complaint alleges that Jennings died September 7, 2010 while working in the freezer hold of the vessel where he was crushed to death in an accident involving the vessel's conveyor belt. Jennings was working alone at the time of the accident.

Parents Awarded Damages in Wrongful Death of Crewman Working For O'Hara Fishing Co.

A Washington King County Judge has found in favor of the parents of a deceased fish processor in a wrongful death case against O'Hara Corporation. Vin Phan was killed in an accident aboard the factory trawler ENTERPRISE in June of 2007. Phan was 28 years old at the time of his death and was living with his parents, for whom he provided services and support. The Phans had immigrated to the United States in 1993 from Vietnam. In Vietnamese cultural, the oldest son resides with his parents through their death. Under the Death on The High Seas Act, parents of deceased crewmen are limited in the types of damages they can recover. There can be no award for love, affection or destruction of the parent-child relationship. Given proper evidentiary proof, parents are entitled to loss of support and service damages. After trial of this matter, Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez awarded Phan's parents compensation for loss of future support and services for the next 29 years. The total award was for $522,362. The case is Phan v. O'Hara Corporation and F/T ENTERPRISE, Washington State Superior Court for King County, Cause No. 09-2-07978-1 SEA (9/23/2010)

Court Finds Fisherman To Be Entitled To Attorney Fees For Failure to Promptly Pay Maintenance and Cure

A King County Judge has ordered B&N Fisheries to reinstate an injured crewman's maintenance and cure benefits. The Court further ordered the company to authorize surgery for the crewman's elbow. The Court ordered B&N Fisheries to pay reasonable attorney fees in connection with the motion. B&N Fisheries moved to block the attorney fee award in a motion for reconsideration, arguing that only a jury can determine the amount of attorney fees due in a case involving the wrongful withholding of maintenance and cure. The Court denied the motion for reconsideration and again affirmed the crewman's right to attorney fees. The case is Camacho v. B&N Fisheries Company, Washington State Superior Court for King County Cause No. 10-2-10495.

Court Rules Statements In Crewman's Accident Report Not Admission of No Fault

A Court has denied the motion of a vessel owner, Atlantic Soundings, to dismiss a deckhand's Jones Act negligence claims. The case involves a hand injury suffered by a deckhand who was tying the vessel to a pontoon when his hand became caught in the bite of the line.

Alaska Fishermen's Fund Benefits Increased to $10,000

The State of Alaska has amended the Alaska Fishermen's Fund to increase benefits to up to $10,000 for crewmen injured on shore or in Alaska State Waters. The previous limit on benefits had been $2,500. The Alaska Fishermen's Fund is funded through Alaska crewmen licenses and permits.

Jones Act Employer Owes Crewman Duty to Inspect Third Party's Vessel To Insure Crewman Safe Place to Work

Maritime Law is well settled that a Jones Act employer has an absolute non-delegable duty to furnish the seaman in its employ with a safe place in which to work. The law is also well settled that this duty includes a duty to inspect third party property for hazards and to protect the employee from possible defects in a ship owned by another. In other words, a Jones Act employer has the duty to inspect the third-party ships to which it sends its employees to work on. If, by a reasonable inspection, the employer could have discovered the unsafe condition, then the employer will be charged with notice of that condition. The employer can protect itself from liability by simply refusing to allow its employee from working on a ship owned by another.

Injured Worker's Immigration Status Held Inadmissible By Washington Supreme Court

The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled yesterday that evidence of an injured worker's illegal immigration status is highly prejudicial and should be held to be inadmissible at trial. Alex Silas was injured when he fell from a ladder at a construction site. Silas was a Mexican citizen who came to the United States in 1989. Although he applied for citizenship, his application was never processed. His visa expired in 1994, but he continued to live and work in the Seattle area. He paid taxes on his earnings. Silas was married and had three children in the United States.

Washington Allows Jury Trial Demand By Employers in State Court Jones Act Cases

In Jones Act injury cases, the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that an employer has the right to demand a trial by jury. Previous to the decision in Endicott v. Icicle Seafoods, most Washington State Superior Court Judges ruled that only the injured seaman had the right to demand or not demand a jury trial in State Court.


The story of Gerardo Cruz Garcia's injury while working for Texas based Zimco Marine again raises interesting questions under United States maritime law. It comes as a surprise to many people that the Jones Act may apply to foreign seaman as well as to foreign flagged vessels. In Garcia's case he was reportedly an illegal alien that came to the United States to try to make a better living fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. He was working for a United States employer aboard a United States fishing vessel. Garcia suffered a head and scalp injury when he was struck by heavy equipment. It is highly probable that if injury claims were brought by Garcia, a United States Court will apply United States maritime law and the Jones Act to Garcia's case.

Fishing Company Sanctioned for Improper Ex-parte Contacts With Injured Seamans Treating Doctors

A Court Order has been issued for sanctions against United States Seafoods for having improper ex-parte communications with an injured seaman's treating doctor. An insurance adjuster for the Alaska fishing company contacted the injured seaman's treating doctor to seek an opinion relating to whether or not the seaman was at maximum medical cure. The seaman's attorney had previously revoked all authorizations given to the insurance adjuster to obtain medical information about the seaman. The Court had also previously ordered the company to pay back maintenance. The Court sanctioned United States Seafoods finding that the ex-parte contacts to be "highly improper" and clearly without "legal basis." An Order was also issued prohibiting United States Seafoods from engaging in future ex-parte contact with the injured seaman's treating health care providers, even if they have information relevant to issues relating to maintenance and cure. The King County Superior Court Case is Holloway v. Alaska Beauty LLC and United States Seafoods.

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