Seaman files lawsuit against United States after fracturing wrist

By Kelly Holleran | Jul 31, 2014

An American merchant seaman has filed suit against the United States of America, alleging he sustained injuries when a hand-crank backfired, fracturing his wrist.

Wesley Whittier filed suit July 21 in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas-Beaumont Division against the United States of America.

According to the complaint, Whittier was working on M/V Cape Trinity, which is owned by the United States, and was assigned to start the lifeboat on March 29, 2013.

However, Whittier claims the boat was poorly maintained and equipped with a hand-crank system considered antiquated and unsafe, according to the complaint. In addition, he alleges the instructions for the hand crank were written in German, which Whittier did not understand, the suit states.

After Whittier crank-started the lifeboat, the engine instantly back-fired and propelled the crank handle in reverse motion, the complaint says. With great force, the handle struck Whittier in the left forearm and fractured his wrist, according to the suit.

Because of the incident, Whittier claims he sustained physical pain and mental anguish, endured physical impairment and disfigurement and lost wages. He required two surgeries, according to the complaint.

Whittier alleges negligence against the United States and says its vessel was not seaworthy.

Whittier is seeking an unspecified judgment, plus costs, pre- and post-judgment interest at the legal rate and other relief the court deems just.

He is being represented by attorneys Michael Patrick Doyle and Patrick M. Dennis of Doyle Raizner in Houston.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Crone.

U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas Beaumont Division case number 1:14-cv-00374-MAC


This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed at the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas Beaumont Division. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note that a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt, and it represents only one side of the story.

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