$1.1M jury award taken away from barge inspector who was thrown from gangway

By David Yates | Nov 8, 2017

BEAUMONT – In August, a Jefferson County jury awarded $1.1 million in damages to Michael Stelly, who claims he stepped onto a gangway that gave way and nearly tossed him into the water after finishing his barge inspection.

However, Jurors also found Stelly was 70 percent negligent, assigning the remaining responsibility to defendant OilTanking Beaumont Partners (now known as Enterprise Refined Products).

On Nov. 2, a final judgment was entered in the case, ordering that Stelly take nothing from Enterprise Refined Products.

Stelly filed suit against OilTanking, Amspec Services and Harley Marine on March 4, 2013, in Jefferson County district Court.

According to the original petition, on Oct. 14, 2012, Stelly, an Ampec employee, was dispatched to inspect a barge owned by Harley Marine for the loading of cargo from OilTanking.

“After completing the inspection, Mr. Stelly began to leave the barge using the gangway,” the suit states. “Upon stepping on the gangway, it gave way sliding out from under him and to the side throwing him off onto the deck of the barge and almost in the river between the barge and deck.”

The suit accused OilTanking of negligently failing to provide a safe working environment and failing to comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.

When jurors were asked if Stelly was negligent in causing his injuries, they answered “Yes” and assigned him 70 percent of the responsibility, according to the charge of the court.

However, even though jurors assigned the majority of the blame to Stelly, they still awarded him more than $1 million in damages.

Jurors awarded Stelly $200,000 in lost wages, $300,000 for his impairment of earning capacity, $400,000 for his past and future medical expenses, $175,000 for his past and future pain and $25,000 for his past mental anguish.

Stelly was awarded no damages for his future mental anguish.

Beaumont attorney David Bernsen represents him.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, is presiding over the case.

Case No. E194-114

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