Mary S. Taylor, et al. v. Bisso Towboat Company, Inc

[B]Case Name: [/B][I]Mary S. Taylor, et al. v Bisso Towboat Company, Inc.
[/I][B]Date Decided: [/B]August 25, 2009
[B]Court: [/B]U.S.D.C. Eastern District of Louisiana
[B]Judge: [/B]Judge Fallon
[B]Citation: [/B]2009 WL 2707452 [B]Background:
[/B]Plaintiff, Mary S. Taylor (“Taylor”), filed suit under the Jones Act and general maritime law against his employer, defendant, Bisso Towboat Company (“Bisso”), alleging his injury was caused by the negligence of Bisso and that their vessel was unseaworthy.

Taylor was employed by Bisso in1989 as an engineer on Bisso’s inland tugboats. Around the year 2000 Taylor was assigned to the M/V Jane as Chief Engineer and has worked steadily in that capacity since 2000.

On the morning of June 15, 2006, the M/V Jane S was on stand-by awaiting orders for the next job. The vessel was tied up at the Portland Avenue Wharf on the Mississippi River in New Orleans.

Sometime around 0800 that morning, Taylor proceeded to the engine room to fire up the engines in anticipation of moving the vessel. As he approached the stairs leading from the top to the bottom of the engine room, he alleges that his foot slipped on a substance that had leaked from a nearby washer/dryer, causing him to fall down the flight of stairs and sustain injuries.

The parties do not dispute that Taylor was injured as a result of his fall. However, both parties disputed the cause of his fail and the nature and extent of his injuries.
Following his fall, Taylor was found to have a fractured fibula and torn meniscus in the left knee.

Taylor received extensive medical treatment, including several surgical procedures, in his left leg.

Taylor returned to work in Sep/Oct of 2006 but left in January of 2007 complaining of pain and has not returned to work since then.

From the date of the incident June 15, 2006 through Sep. 2007, Bisso paid Taylor a full salary to Taylor in the amount of 40k including the days he returned to work. From September 2007 through the present (Date of judgment) Bisso has paid maintenance benefits of 20.00 per day in the total amount of $13,740 and medical expenses of $71,561.80.

Did the Court find that Bisso owed more to Taylor under the Jones Act and general maritime law, the doctrine of unseaworthiness?

Taylor claims that his fall was caused by the negligence of his employer and the unseaworthiness of the M/V Jane S. Specifically he alleged that he slipped on a substance which leaked out of the waster/dryer located at the top of the stairs, a condition which was known or should have been known by Bisso who failed to correct/remedy the situation.

Bisso countered by claiming that the fall was due to Taylor’s negligence in wearing improper shoes causing him to trip and fall. Moreover, Bisso claims as Chief Engineer, it was Taylor’s job to make the engine room safe and remove and remedy any potential hazards. At the time of the accident Taylor was wearing sandals, a violation of the ship’s safety policy.

The Captain found Taylor lying at the bottom of the engine room and did not notice, at the time of assisting Taylor, that there was any kind of substance in which Taylor could have slipped. Moreover, the Captain testified that Taylor did not mention anything about slipping but that he “tripped” on something causing his fall.

A seaman under the Jones Act is obligated to act with ordinary prudence under the circumstances.* The circumstances of his employment include the seaman’s own experience, training, and education.

Bisso has a duty to provide a seaworthy vessel. A vessel is seaworthy if it is one that is reasonably fit for its intended use.

Moreover, a seaman injured in the course of his or her employment also has a claim for maintenance and cure. It is not dependent on any kind of negligence from either employer or employee or vessel unseaworthiness.

This Court found that the sole cause of Taylor’s fall and resulting injuries was his own negligence in wearing improper shoes in direct violation of Bisso’s safety rules.

Accordingly this Court dismissed Taylor’s claim under the Jones Act and unseaworthieness but awarded judgment for maintenance and cure benefits of $180 plus prejudgment interest.

A seaman has the duty to act with ordinary prudence under the circumstances. As such, this not only includes the environment but also the seaman’s requisite experience and skillset. [/B]

[B]Courts will take into consideration the seaman’s experience in determining whether he/she fulfilled their duty to act with ordinary prudence prior to allowing them to recover under a Jones Act negligence cause of action. [/B]

[B]Maintenance and cure, is owed by the employer regardless of whether the vessel was unseaworthy or whether the employer acted reasonably or negligent. [/B]

[B]Steve Gordon [/B]


What if he had been wearing safety shoes? How do you think that would have effected the case?

slips and falls are the major cause of onboard injury…question is how “seaworthy” are “the proper shoes” as prescribed by the company “safety rules”…but that point is mute because he didn’t have them on at time of accident…have witnessed many “near misses” as a result of wearing non marine industrial footwear…don’t know of any SOLAS approved “safety shoes”…ever wonder why many companies don’t specify a particular shoe and that you provide your own “safety shoes”??

I have asked this question many times before; Are the safety requirements and procedures there to protect the person from injury or protect the companies from lawsuits?

I myself am very, very diligent about wearing proper ppe’s and following the company’s Health, Safety, and Environmental policies, even to the point of being laughed at by fellow employees. But I believe that most of it is boiler plate text and not part of the true identity of the company.

If you don’t want to follow the company guidelines then plan your emergencies accordingly.

Regardless of being laughed at for performing your job as safely as possible and as close to the company safety guidelines as possible, to go by the book is to follow the inherent policies of good and prudent seamanship. Prevention is 99% of a safe work environment and vastly increases the chance that you will go home to your family in one piece…

Given the Court held that the sole cause of the fall was the incorrect footwear, the allegation that there was some other substance that caused the fall was not credible and the case would still have likely been decided in favor of the vessel owner. However it is equally likely that the claimant would have made some other allegation to try to get recovery.

While there are not SOLAS approved safety shoes, there are ANSI approved safety shoes for a variety of industrial applications. It is not hard to prescribe a standard that relies on a recognized safety organization like ANSI to establish the standard. What becomes paramount after that is that the vessel’s captain or the company periodically check to make sure the policy is followed or tasks the Captain/Master with that responsibility in thier Safety Policies.