Jones Act case against Kirby proceeds in federal court

Marilyn Tennissen Sep. 5, 2007, 8:00am

Richard Schechter

A Jones Act case against Kirby Inland Marine filed in April is proceeding through federal court in the Eastern District of Texas.

On Aug. 27, attorneys for plaintiff Ronny L. Hayes Jr. submitted additional disclosures required under an amended discovery order issued by U.S. District Judge T. John Ward.

Hayes filed an original complaint against Kirby on April 10 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas and is represented by Richard Schechter of Houston.

He alleges that on June 6, 2006, he sustained serious injuries while working on vessels owned by Kirby Inland Marine LP. At the time, Hayes was serving as a relief captain aboard the M/V Capt. Frank Gibson.

"While in the course and scope of his employment, plaintiff was walking on a catwalk on the Kirby 19400, a barge owned by defendant, and sustained serious injuries to his neck, back and other parts of his body," the original complaint states.

The plaintiff alleges that the incident was caused by Kirby's negligence and by the unseaworthy condition of the vessels.
Hayes is seeking damages for past and future physical pain, mental anguish, medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, physical impairment to exceed $800,000.

In addition, Hayes states that Kirby has refused to pay him proper "maintenance and cure" benefits.

"Defendant's failure to pay these benefits was both unreasonable and arbitrary and capricious," the complaint states.

Because of the refusal to pay benefits, the defendant also shows willful and wanton disregard for the plaintiff, entitling Hayes to full tort damages of at least $100,000.

However, Judge Ward granted a defense motion to dismiss the claim of punitive damages. Kirby argued that the plaintiff failed to state the claim on which punitive relief may be granted, but that attorney fees could be awarded. Judge Ward agreed and signed the order on June 28. He also denied the plaintiff's request for sanctions against Kirby for filing a frivolous motion.

On July 11, Ward issued an amended discovery order to provide additional information -- including legal theories and factual bases of claims, identification of expert witnesses, medical records – within 30 days. The discovery is limited to 25 interrogatories, 25 requests for admissions, three expert witnesses per side and 15 additional hours of depositions per side.

Schechter notified the court that the additional disclosures were forwarded to defense counsel, Dennis Sullivan, on Aug. 27.

Case No. 2:07-cv-00126-TJW

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