Benjamin McCuller v. Nautical Ventures, et al


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[B]Case Name: [/B][I]Benjamin McCuller, et al. v. Nautical Ventures
[/I][B]Date Decided: [/B]October 6, 2009
[B]Court: [/B]U.S.D.C. Eastern District of Louisiana
[B]Judge: [/B]Judge Fallon
[B]Citation: [/B]2009 WL 3254290 [B]Background:
[/B]Plaintiff, Benjamin McCuller (“McCuller”) was employed by Halliburton Energy Services at a marine terminal in Louisiana. Defendant, Nautical Ventures (“Nautical”), owned and operated the M/V CLegend (“C-Legend”).*

McCuller was working on the C-Legend when it came off dry dock and was instructed to attach hoses to the vessel’s manifold to accomplish cement loading. A rung on a ladder used by McCuller broke while climbing into the ship and he fell five feet sustaining injury.

McCuller filed this action against the vessel owner alleging negligence in improper mooring, failing to give safe ingress, and vessel negligence under General Maritime Law.

McCuller’s wife, sought loss of consortium under General Maritime Law.

Nautical denied liability and claimed the ladder was not damaged prior to deployment. Moreover, Nautical claimed if the ladder was damaged at the time of injury the damage was open and obvious to anyone using the ladder, including McCuller.

[B]Issue:
[/B]Did this Court find in favor of McCuller and hold Nautical liable for his injuries?

[B]Held:
[/B]This Court found that Nautical, as the vessel owner, had a duty to insure that the ladder provided was not damaged prior to deployment.

This Court further found that had Nautical completed a proper inspection, they would have discovered defects in the ladder.* Moreover, this Court found that McCuller did not have the same access to or view of the defective ladder nor did he have experience or training to alert him as to what to look for.

Also, this Court considered McCuller’s negligence attributable to his injuries. This Court found that McCuller’s holding of a clipboard while climbing the ladder was negligent and contributed to his fall and subsequent injuries.

Accordingly this Court apportioned 70% of fault to Nautical and 30% to McCuller.

[B]Comment:
In this case, the Court examined the fault of the plaintiff attributable to plaintiff’s injury. In order to determine the negligence of the plaintiff, courts will take into consideration the requisite skill and special knowledge possessed by the plaintiff. That is, a more experienced worker is held to a higher standard than a less experienced one. [/B]

[B]The Court here found that the plaintiff, from his vantage point, had no way to discover the damage or have reason to know the ladder was in a damaged condition. [/B]

[B]Steve Gordon *[/B]

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