Vessel owners must make sure that all boat passengers have a safe way to get on and off the boat. That didn’t happen for our client, but after 10 years, two summary judgment motions, and three appeals, we were able to obtain fair compensation for our client at mediation.
How the Construction Worker Got Hurt
In 2008, a construction worker named Wayne Schnapp was working as a surveyor for Weeks Marine, Inc. on the renovation of the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge from Manhattan to the Bronx. Weeks Marine hired Millers Marine as a subcontractor. Millers Marine was responsible for providing crew boat services for Weeks Marine workers. Miller Marine’s vessel, the Marguerite Miller, took the workers from a staging location to the construction site.
On April 14, 2008, Mr. Schnapp was ferried by Miller Marine to Weeks Marine yard where the captain of the boat backed the vessel up against Week Marine’s decrepit pier. The deck was about four feet below the top of the bulkhead. Pursuant to company policy, Miller Marine’s captain failed to put out steps, a ladder, a gangplank, or any other assistive device for Mr. Schnapp to scale the bulkhead. Accordingly, Mr. Schnapp had to climb up the rocks and structure without assistance. When he returned to board the vessel, Mr. Schnapp put his hand on the shoulder of a co-worker who was already on the boat and then jumped down the four-foot elevation. He landed heavily on his feet, and the impact of the jump from that height shattered the tibial plateau of his knee.
Mr. Schnapp’s injuries required three surgeries and extensive physical therapy. He is permanently disabled as a result.
How Mr. Schnapp Got a Legal Recovery
Our lawyers brought this case pursuant to Section 905(b) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA).
After years of perseverance, we settled Mr. Schnapp’s case at mediation for $1,425,000.
We overcame many obstacles to get this fair settlement for our client.
First, the defendant brought a limitation of liability action in federal court. This did not concern us because we believed that the defendant had privity and knowledge of the cause of the injuries since the captain was following an express policy of the defendant—found in its operations manual—not to provide safe ingress and egress to passengers.
The defendant moved for summary judgment to dismiss the case based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Scindia Steam Navigation Co. v. De Los Santos, 451 U.S. 156 (1981). After two oral arguments and a year’s delay, the trial court granted summary judgment to Miller Marine.
Hofmann & Schweitzer appealed, and the intermediate appellate court reversed the trial court’s summary judgment decision. The intermediate appellate court’s decision was later affirmed by the state’s highest Court of Appeals.
Ultimately, our maritime attorneys showed that a crew boat operator that picks up and discharges construction worker passengers at the construction worker’s employer’s piers has a duty to provide safe ingress and egress to construction worker passengers covered by their employer’s LHWCA policy. Additionally, we proved that the Supreme Court’s Scindia duties, such as the "turn over duty" the "active operations duty" and the "duty to intervene" apply to this type of case.
Mr. Schnapp’s case was not easy, but we did everything that we could to get him the fair recovery that the law allows, and we were successful.
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