"Seamen" Sue Over Rough Weather

So searching for stock-related news on Transocean I came across this headline.
Transocean Sued By 2 More Seamen Left In Path Of Hurricane

Unfortunately I don’t have access. But in searching around I found enough bits and pieces to see this related to the Deepwater Asgard not getting out of the way of Hurricane Zeta in the GOM in late Oct 2020.

According to these lawyers (who also represented some of the El Faro and Deepwater Horizon cases), it looks like they are representing at least 3 crew members.

Their claim:

filed a case against Transocean and Beacon for leaving the crew of the Deepwater Asgard directly in the path of a hurricane. By doing this, these companies subjected the crew of this vessel, including our client, to extremely dangerous, life-threatening, and traumatizing conditions.
…In this case, these companies left their workers at the mercy of nature and luck. This is unacceptable, and our client deserves compensation for their negligence.

I’ve seen video and pictures of the aftermath. It was rough. There was significant damage to the rig. They probably should have un-latched and run. But compensation for negligence? Traumatized by the weather? Its a ship that was designed for survival in heavy weather, and it survived. Is this really actionable? Is there not an expectation of rough weather when you put to sea?

The workers were then left miles from help in volatile water. They relied on the mercy of Mother Nature to stay alive. Waiting out a hurricane in a home is bad enough—forcing others to endure one while stranded at sea is cruel and indefensible.

Further, the suit identifies “seaman” which I put in quotes in the title for a reason. The name of at least one of the individuals matches with an Electronics Technician that works for Transocean. ETs are not hired or used on the MSM as Seaman. Some hold credentials, but TOI rigs have actual Seamen onboard in that position. Regardless, am I wrong in thinking this is frivolous? (Or am I due compensation for the storms I’ve sailed through? /s)

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In a word, no. Most mariners do their best to avoid bad weather, It (weather) has a mind of it’s own. Never blamed someone else for the weather I encountered when I made a decision to sail beforehand knowing perhaps what was ahead of me, but thought I could make it with no damage or losses. Most masters, ships or tugs/ATB’s face that decision, quite alright with that whatever they decided on sailing time. Sue me for weather? Effing nuts.

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I imagine it will be tossed out of court pretty quickly. I’m no lawyer, but as I understand it, negligence under maritime law is a higher standard than on land, so it will be tough to prove. Especially since it was a drillship designed to encounter heavy weather at sea, classified by DNV-GL and certified by the Marshall Islands. Good luck!

This situation is not simply an episode of rough weather. It’s a tropical cyclone which are dangerous because they have a large amount of energy concentrated in a relatively small area and the forecasts are subject to large errors.

The argument that the vessel survived with only some damage doesn’t
necessary hold up because it could be a matter of “process not outcome”.

I’m not sure I follow what you mean. Are you saying seamen can sue a company for a Captains judgement because it could have plausibly caused more damage and potential risk to crew than it did?

HTTV: I believe you have it backwards: the burden of proof of negligence in an admiralty/maritime case is much easier than land-based negligence.

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I mean to say the the procedures to avoid a tropical system are somewhat cut and dried.

For example a case involving an accommodation ladder. The argument that some people used it without injury would be weaker if the ladder wasn’t rigged properly.

It might depend on what steps they took in the decision not to move out of the path.

HTTV: from a legal treatise. I’m not an attorney.

In order to prove causation under the Jones Act, the plaintiff need only prove that the employer’s negligence played any part – however small – in the plaintiff’s injuries. There could have been three other more significant causes of the injury, but the plaintiff would still be entitled to recover damages against a Jones Act employer as long as the employer’s negligence was even a 1% cause of the injury. This is sometimes referred to as “featherweight” causation.

Perhaps. I know there were no fatalities, I wasn’t aware (but do not know) about any injuries. I’d have thought the lawyers press release would have specifically stated injuries if there were any rather than just that their clients had been subjected to risk. It seems they are just suing over potential. I guess I’ll have to wait until the case filings get posted.

Regarding the procedures being cut and dried, its a little more gray for drillships. They have calculations (T-Time) to consider time to secure the well, recover down-hole equipment, time to unlatch, and to pull riser (or if the bathymetry/surface contours allows to pull riser while drifting away from the storm). It could be higher than 48-72 hours depending on the water depth and well operation.

Some operators have a lower risk tolerance and prepare to unlatch early. Some initiate pulling as soon as a Named storm enters the gulf no matter what. If you think the storm is going to take a different route and you delay the pull, it can get exceeding difficult or impossible to safely/actually pull riser. T-times don’t ever consider much in the way of problems along the way. I’ve ridden out a bad storm with the BOP hanging because by that point the rig motion exceeded our pulling parameters. So you wait, and you eat the damage. If it was the client that forced the delay, you hope they eat the damage.

It’s been a while since I looked into this, but does the Jones Act in anyway cover workers on Foreign Flag vessels operating on OCS permits in the GOM?

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Those were my thoughts too. I was applying the standard for negligence on the part of a foreign-flagged vessel owner/operator. If Jones Act does apply, then I agree with RR that it is a much lower burden.

Wasn’t of the understanding the crew members were foreigners? however, not being an attorney, I found this answer for you:

Can Foreign Seaman Take Advantage of United States Law?

The courts determined the word “seaman” found in the Jones Act is not limited to American citizens or residents. A foreign seaman can take advance of Unites States law including the Jones Act, Penalty Wage Act as well as general maritime law claims of unseaworthiness and failure to provide maintenance and cure. In other words, just because a seaman is a citizen of another country it does not necessarily mean the seafarer cannot bring a Jones Act negligence or general maritime law claim in the United States.

More than 48- 72 hrs is certainly more then I was assuming but I don’t mean to say that the procedure is cut and dried. I meant that determining whether the company procedures with regards to the go /no-go decision were followed should be relatively simple.

I don’t recall the details with regards to Zeta but perhaps there were mitigating circumstances with regards to the forecast.

Yes, seems like no injuries.

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Apparently, they are suing on a “negligent infliction of emotional distress” type of claim.

A big bad oil company with very deep pockets and it’s drilling contractor acting in a profit maximizing (cost minimization) manner negligently or intentionally “abandons” the crew of a drill rig on the Outer Continental Shelf of the United States in the path of a forecast hurricane and the crew is scared shitless but survives, the crew continues to suffer injury in the form of lost sleep, nightmares, upset stomachs, etc., and incurs medical expenses for treatment and counseling, and this happened not long after the loss of the EL FARO crew in a hurricane?

It sounds to me like they have a colorable claim, and a case that may have some significant settlement value.

Now if they spilled hot coffee on themselves because of the storm, they’ll have a winning case for sure.


Was McDonald’s the catering contractor on the rig?

No but there were probably hot coffee.
I though the Courts were brand neutral??

Have these employees been laid off?

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So, it has come to signing waivers regarding bad weather? Stay on the beach if you cant take the good with the bad. We all want good weather, but know the shit hits the fan every now and then.

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There are two questions here. The legal part I’ve no expertise or interest.

This part however is not debatable.

Its a ship that was designed for survival in heavy weather, and it survived.

Concluding that not moving for a hurricane was the right decision because it survived is incorrect. Hurricanes should be avoided.


Anyone have a case number to look up in pacer.gov?