Defendants In Tug Boat Lawsuits Seek Liability Limits

Lever & Ecker, PLLC July 26, 2016 General

Four months after a tugboat collided with a construction barge under the Tappen Zee Bridge, the defendants named in several lawsuits have announced that they are seeking to limit their liability.

New Details Reported About The Crash

The crash, which occurred on March 12, 2016, took the lives of three men: Paul Amon, Timothy Conklin, and Harrytugboat like the one that sunkHernandez. The boat which sunk, the Specialist, was working with two other tug boats called the Realist and the Trevor to pull a crane from Albany to Jersey City.

At the time of the accident, the captain of the Specialist, Paul Crowley,  was actually on board the Realist. Initially, the captain of the Realist, James Morrison, told investigators that he had requested Crowley take over the operation of his vessel because he had worked a six-hour watch and needed a break. This meant that Paul Amon was left in charge of the Specialist – after a difficult 24 hours of navigating fog and forceful currents.

The crash took place around 5 a.m. and according to witnesses, Amon was actually able to make it out of the tugboat and onto the barge. However, he went back to the sinking ship to try and help his crew mates and never made it back out.

When investigators first arrived on the scene, Morrison informed them that the only people on his ship other than himself were Crowley and a few other crew members. But recently, new details have emerged stating that the captain actually also had his girlfriend on board. Some have speculated that he had pulled the other captain onto his ship so that he could spend time with her rather than steer the ship.

The Lawsuits

The families of the three men who died have filed lawsuits against several parties, including the owners of the tugboat, the constructors, and a consortium member.

What About Workers’ Compensation?

For men and women who work on or near the water and are injured, workers’ compensation may not be available. What determines this is whether or not they are classified as a “seaman”.  Anyone who is considered a seaman is covered under the Jones Act.

The Jones Act

A seaman is defined as anyone who spends their working hours as a member of a crew on a ship or a boat that is insailor happy on the job use or, “in navigation”. If injured on the job, these hardworking men and women are not eligible for workers’ compensation but are instead able to three separate types of compensation for their injuries.

  1. A seaman has the ability to sue his or her employer if they have been injured on the job, unlike workers who are able to file for workers’ compensation.
  2. A seaman has the ability to pursue legal action against the owner of the vessel they are working on.
  3. A seaman is able to obtain what is called a “maintenance and cure”. This may include compensation for rent / mortgage payments, utilities, and food, as well as medical expenses.  

The Longshore Act

For anyone who is not considered a seaman, the Longshore Act exists. This act is actually very much like standard workers’ compensation.  

Wrongful Death Claims

The family members who have chosen to pursue legal action against the three defendants have filed a wrongful death lawsuit. By suing the defendants, they may be able to obtain monetary compensation for:

  • the loss of the deceased’s salary
  • the loss of the deceased’s benefits
  • emotional trauma caused by the death
  • the pain and suffering experienced by the deceased before they died
  • loss of inheritance

The amount of money awarded to the plaintiffs can vary widely from case to case depending on many factors. If you have lost a loved one due to a workplace accident, contact an attorney to learn more about what your legal options are.