On the night of April 8, 2015, 36-year-old William Johnson was at work off the coast of Florida. Mr. Johnson’s employer, the Dutra Group, had a contract with the Port of Cape Canaveral to dredge the inlet in Cape Canaveral, Florida and Mr. Johnson was working on that project.

That’s Where the Maritime Accident Occurred

Around 11 p.m., the mate ordered Mr. Johnson to go from the dredge Paula Lee to the scow DS6 in order to grease some rollers and the sheave on an A-Frame at the bow. At the time, both vessels were in the Atlantic Ocean. The Paula Lee was in the calm waters near the inlet and the scow DS6 was approximately one-half mile offshore.

Mr. Johnson told the mate that he was concerned about going to the scow DS6 alone because the empty scow was in four- to six-foot swells with waves of about 10 feet. He argued that there was no immediate need to service the scow and in that just 45 minutes the scow was scheduled to be towed alongside the Paula Lee. The greasing work could have been done at that time and in a safer way. The Paula Lee could’ve shielded the scow from waves, provided lighting, and the ladderway could’ve been cleaned to reduce the risk of slipping.

Despite these arguments, the mate insisted that Mr. Johnson travel to the scow. In order to get on the deck, Mr. Johnson had to climb up a pigeonhole ladderway on the side of the barge. The ladderway was a set of inserts where he could put his foot. These insets have a bar across them that can be used as a handrail or for climbing purposes.

After Mr. Johnson was ferried to the scow, he climbed up the ladderway with his tools, he performed his work, and he attempted to get back on the tender.

That Is When He Suffered a Serious Maritime Shoulder Injury From a Slip and Fall

As Mr. Johnson was attempting to climb down the pigeonhole ladderway to reboard the tender, he had to deal with mud in the ladderway inserts with very little lighting to guide his way. When he put his foot in the insert, it slipped and he started to fall. He was able to catch himself on the wire handhold. However, all of his body weight was on his right shoulder. He felt a pop and immediate pain in his shoulder.

He reported the shoulder injury when he got back on the tender and then when he got back to the Paula Lee. He was taken to Cape Canaveral Hospital where he was diagnosed with a biceps tendon tear. When he returned to New Jersey, he saw his family doctor who referred him to an orthopedic surgeon. The orthopedic surgeon diagnosed Mr. Johnson with a torn labrum, rotator cuff tendinitis, and impingement syndrome. Surgery was recommended and it was performed on May 19, 2015. After surgery, Mr. Johnson had extensive physical therapy.

On October 20, 2015, a Functional Capacity Test was done and Mr. Johnson was cleared for medium-category work with significant restrictions. Mr. Johnson was unable to return to work as a dredgeman because of these restrictions. As a result, Mr. Johnson went through various periods of partial disability and total disability.

Our Maritime Lawyers Resolved Mr. Johnson’s Shoulder Injury Claim for More Than Half a Million Dollars

In April 2018, we successfully mediated Mr. Johnson’s claim for a total financial recovery of $537,500. This amount included compensation for $212,000 in lost earnings and for pain and suffering.

Mr. Johnson was a seaman at the time of his accident. We argued that both the Jones Act and general maritime law applied to Mr. Johnson’s claim since his employer failed to provide him with a seaworthy vessel. More specifically, we argued that the vessel was unseaworthy because dangerous conditions existed due to swells and high seas, the lack of adequate lighting, and the mud in the holes of the ladderway that was not cleaned as they should have been cleaned.

Mr. Johnson plans to use his legal recovery to purchase a home and multiple acres of land in South Jersey.

We were pleased to help Mr. Johnson get a fair recovery for his injuries, and we would be pleased to help you do the same if you’ve been hurt in a maritime accident. Please contact us online or call our office directly at 800.362.9329 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our experienced maritime injury lawyers. Additionally, we encourage you to download a free copy of our publication, The Legal Rights Of Injured Seamen, Dockbuilders, Dredgemen And Other Commercial Mariners: Ten Important Questions Answered, to begin learning more about your rights immediately.


Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.

DISCLAIMER: The results are specific to the facts and legal circumstances of each of the clients' cases and should not be used to form an expectation that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances of each client's case.