Seaman avers spinal injury in valve struggle

By Carol Ostrow | Aug 12, 2015

A seaman is suing his employer under the Jones Act and general maritime law, alleging negligence in a 2014 offshore work accident which he claims has caused permanent damages.

Wilbert Bennett, currently residing in Honduras, filed a lawsuit against Moran Towing Corp. of Dallas and Port Arthur, Texas, in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas on July 28, claiming liability in an April 2014 fall which supposedly hurt his back.

According to the suit, the defendant ordered Bennett to open an allegedly defective valve aboard a barge connected to a towing vessel, the Mary Ann Moran, on April 4 or 5, 2014. The suit states that the valve could not be opened without undue stress and that as Bennett struggled, his foot slipped and he sustained significant injuries to his spine.

The complaint states that Moran was negligent in failing to provide a safe workplace with adequate tools, equipment and assistance, repair the valve in question, address the alleged leakage of a slippery substance on the barge’s deck, have proper non-skid coatings in place, and warn him of the valve’s condition.

Claiming that both vessels were unseaworthy and that his injuries caused pain, anguish, impairment and medical complications, Bennett argues that he cannot work, has suffered loss of income, earning capacity, and enjoyment of life, and is hindered from performing household services.

The plaintiff also contends that his personal relationships have suffered.

Bennett seeks more than $75,000 in compensation, maintenance and cure in lieu of punitive damages, penalties, pre-judgment interest, attorney’s fees, expenses and costs. He is represented by Arthur Schechter and Dennis McElwee of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer, & Harris in Houston.

Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas case number 3:15-cv-00198.

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