Pilot files Jones Act suit for injury during boat transfer

By David Yates | Jul 16, 2008

A Harvey Gulf tug is shown towing a drilling rig.

While transferring from one boat to another, seaman Ricci Anderson grabbed a handrail to steady himself as the boat rocked.

In court papers, Anderson says the strain of having to reach up and grab the handrail caused severe injuries to his arm.

Anderson filed suit against Harvey Gulf International Marine and Diamond Offshore Drilling on July 14 in Jefferson County District Court.

The lawsuit was filed under the Jones Act, which among other things, allows injured sailors to obtain damages from their employers due to negligence caused by the ship owner, captain or fellow members of the crew.

According to the plaintiff's original petition, Anderson was employed as a pilot with Sabine Pilots of Groves.

On Oct. 21, 2007, Harvey Gulf was towing a semi-submersible drilling rig owned by Diamond Offshore. Anderson was called out to transfer onto the tugboat, the Harvey Thunder, to tow the drilling rig into the jetties.

"While in the process of transferring from the pilot boat onto the Harvey Thunder … the tugboat yawed and rocked causing plaintiff's arms to be jerked violently," the suit says. "Plaintiff was forced to grab onto handrails overhead – in the absence of a ladder, guide bar/guide rails and/or safety rod – to avoid falling between the vessels. As a result, plaintiff sustained severe injuries."

Anderson says Harvey and Diamond were negligent in requesting that he make the transfer in unsafe seas.

He also alleges the companies were negligent for failing to inspect the tugboat to ensure it was safe, failing to provide a ladder or other equipment to allow pilots to transfer safely onto the tugboat, failing to institute safety procedures with the tugboat captain to prevent transfer injuries and failing to cancel the transfer in light of the rough seas.

Anderson is suing for past and future physical pain and mental anguish, medical bills, lost earnings and earning capacity, impairment, disfigurement and other costs and fees.

He is requesting a trial by jury and is represented by attorney Sandee Hart of the Bernard & Hart law firm.

Judge Milton Shuffield of the 136th Judicial District has been assigned to the case.

Case No. D182-049

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