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Falling locker cover injured seaman’s back – $950,000 Settlement

Plaintiff, a 32-year-old deckhand on a regional tug boat company, was working on a vessel as it was being prepared for repairs at a Tidewater ship repair port. As he was bending down to move some equipment, a 100-pound metal locker cover fell onto his back from the deck above, nearly 10 feet down. During investigation, it was determined that the locker hinges were severely rusted, in need of replacement and known by the ownership and management of the tug company. The claim arose under general maritime law and in particular the unseaworthiness of the vessel. The plaintiff was highly educated with a college degree and spoke more than one language, thus providing the defense a strong argument about the future loss of earning capacity claim. Moreover, plaintiff had just begun with the company from the bottom of the crew rank, namely a deckhand. During his treatment for his ongoing pain in his spine, he received numerous non-invasive shots and injections and suffered a CSF (cerebral spinal fluid) leak which required additional treatment (blood patch) to repair. Plaintiff made an excellent appearance for himself and was credible as to his stated goals to work on the water and in the maritime industry as a career before the incident. He is no longer able to have a career on the water for safety reasons.

The company vigorously argued that plaintiff had zero future loss of earnings and was represented by in-house and outside private counsel. A limitation of liability was filed in federal court to offensively cap the potential damages against the company but was stayed as is customary in maritime cases. The case settled before any depositions were completed well in advance of trial.


Type of action: Personal injury

Injuries alleged: Spinal compression fractures at T12-L1, post-concussion syndrome, chronic low back pain

Name of case: Confidential

Tried before: Mediation

Name of mediator: Hon. Thomas S. Shadrick (Ret.)

Date resolved: Aug. 17, 2018

Special damages: Approximately $100,000 in medicals and future loss of earning capacity disputed heavily

Verdict or settlement: Settlement

Amount: $950,000

Attorneys for plaintiff: Adam Harris Lotkin and Brother Rutter, Norfolk

Plaintiff’s experts: Treating trauma physicians at Norfolk General, treating orthopedic and pain management team at Johns Hopkins Medical Center