Mack Shelby v. SeaRiver Maritime, Inc

[B]Date Decided[/B]: unknown
[B]Decided By[/B]: California 1st District Court of Appeals (State)
[B]Court[/B]: Court of Appeal, First District, Division 3, California
[B]Citation[/B]: 2011 WL 576569
Plaintiff Mack Shelby (“Shelby”) brought an action fordamages for personal injury under the Jones Act and general maritime lawalleging defendant, SeaRiver Maritime Inc. (“SeaRiver”) failed toprovide him with a safe working environment, and failed to provide seaworthyvessels.

For 17 years Shelby was employed as an able-bodied seaman on boardSeaRiver vessels carrying petroleum products in the Alaska and east coasttrades. His duties included loading and discharging of petroleum products,cleaning tanks, and general supervision of the cargo in transit. Duringhis service on SeaRiver vessels, Shelby worked in close proximity to benzene: achemical commonly found in petroleum products, and a known carcinogen.
In 2003, Shelby wasdiagnosed with kidney cancer and underwent a successful operation to remove acancerous right kidney. Shelby returned to work for SeaRiver following thesurgery but subsequently suffered from hernias in the area of the surgery,episodes of gout, permanent weakness on his right side, and fears that hiscancer would return.

Shelby instituted this action claiming SeaRiver failed to comply withfederal regulations governing exposure to benzene, failed to warn him of thehealth risks associated with benzene exposure, and failed to provide him withprotective equipment. Shelby reasoned that an unhealthy exposure to benzene causedthe loss of his kidney and his subsequent health problems.
At trial, Dr.Nelson Avery (“Avery”), a medical expert in the field of medicaltoxicology, presented an overview of medical journal articles and studieslinking benzene exposure to kidney cancer, and testified that, in his opinion,Shelby’s cancer was attributable to an overexposure of benzene while in theemploy of SeaRiver.
Following an 8million dollar verdict for Shelby, SeaRiver moved for a judgmentnotwithstanding the verdict arguing Avery’s testimony regarding causation wasnot supported by substantial evidence, that the jury’s economic damages awardwas not supported by substantial evidence, and that the pain and sufferingdamages award was excessive.
The trial court denied SeaRiver’s motion and SeaRiver appeals.
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