Family of dead shrimper files Jones Act suit

David Yates Nov. 19, 2007, 7:21am

A Gulf shrimp boat

Returning from a shrimping run off the coast of Port Isabel, Jose Rodriguez suffered an anxiety attack as the U.S. Coast Guard investigated the vessel on which he was serving. The next day, Rodriguez was found dead.

Rodriguez's family and lawyers claim that if Rodriguez's employer, Cuevas & Martinez Inc., had "furnished him with proper equipment," Rodriguez would still be alive and shrimping to this day.

Seeking more than $75,000 for Rodriguez's death, Yolanda Morin, Jasmine and Jose Rodriguez filed a Jones Act suit against Cuevas & Martinez with the Jefferson County District Court on Nov. 15.

According to the plaintiffs' petition, on Sept. 4, 2006, Rodriguez was serving aboard the Letisha Trinae, a vessel owned by Cuevas & Martinez, which was shrimping off the coast of Port Isabel.

"Plaintiff was (a) shrimp header on the (vessel), which was coming back in to port after a shrimp haul…(when) the U.S. Coast Guard approached the vessel and its crew members for routine investigations," the suit said.

"During this time, Rodriguez suffered from an anxiety attack. The next morning (his) body was found near Port Isabel, approximately three to five miles from where the Letisha Trinae was grounded."

The suit alleges Cuevas & Martinez is negligent and responsible for Rodriguez's death for failing to provide proper equipment.

"Defendants owed Plaintiff a duty to furnish him safe and proper equipment onboard and egress from the vessel, the Letisha Trinae," the suit said. "Such failure to provide proper working equipment proximately caused and resulted in the death sustained by Plaintiff."

The suit does not say how proper equipment would have saved Rodriguez's life, nor does the suit describe the circumstances of his death.

"This case is instituted under…the Jones Act," the suit said. "Plaintiff would show that nothing he did or failed to do on the occasion in question caused, or in any way contributed to cause, his injuries. To the contrary, the occurrence in which Plaintiff was killed were proximately caused by the negligence…of the Defendant."

The suit does not say how Rodriguez will show that nothing he did contributed to his injuries since he is deceased.

"The Defendants owed Plaintiff a duty to furnish him a safe place to work and a seaworthy vessel and, as applied to Plaintiff, the Defendants failed in those respects because of the unseaworthiness of the vessel in question, which caused and resulted in the death and damages sustained by Plaintiff," the suit said. "These conditions were brought about and caused by the named Defendants."

The suit also says the defendant was negligent for failing to provide a competent crew.

The plaintiffs are suing for past and future mental anguish, pain, medical expenses, and funeral expenses.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorney Richard Plezia of the Plezia, McLemore, Reddell, Ardoin & Story law firm.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd Judicial District, has been assigned to the case.

Case No. E180-756

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