The plaintiff, a 29-year-old male waiter from Turkey, was injured during a lifeboat drill on the vessel Starward. The plaintiff was trying to hook a cable to the lifeboat when another crewmember stepped into his position forcing the plaintiff to step backwards to make room. The plaintiff slipped on a slick substance on the lifeboat, causing him to fall backwards out of the lifeboat 7 stories to the water below.
The plaintiff claimed that the defendant should have provided the crew in the lifeboat with safety belts. The defendant claimed that the accident was the plaintiff’s fault because he was a passenger in the lifeboat and not supposed to be doing any work and also that the plaintiff stood on the seats, which was prohibited. The plaintiff sustained two fractured vertebrae and several bulging discs as a result of the accident. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff had ongoing back problems for years and that the fractures were not from the accident. The plaintiff also claimed injuries to his elbow and knee.
Dr. Lloyd Moriber, orthopedic surgeon, testified for the plaintiff that he had a 7% disability to the elbow and a 10% disability to the knee of which 50% was preexisting. Dr. Aldo Berti, neurosurgeon, testified that the plaintiff needed to have back surgery to stabilize his back, which would cost approximately $40,000. He also assigned a 20% disability to the back with respect to the fractures. Dr. Gary Lustgarten, neurosurgeon, testified that the plaintiff needed back surgery with respect to his herniated disc and that the surgery should be done in conjunction with Dr. Berti’s proposed surgery and that the cost would be around $75,000. The ships doctor testified for the defendant, that the plaintiff did not have any bruising to his back after the accident although he did not muscle spasm. He testified that the plaintiff suffered a back sprain and that x-rays taken soon after the accident did not show any fractures. Dr. Alan Drexler, radiologist, testified that the bone scan taken 3 to 4 weeks after the accident was negative for fractures which indicated that the fractures were old and predated the accident on board the ship. Dr. Ken Fisher, neurologist, examined the plaintiff on behalf of the defendant but was not called as a witness at the trial.
The plaintiff claimed he could not work on board a vessel as a waiter anymore, where he was earning $3000 monthly including tips. In the future, he thought he could work as a hotel receptionist in Turkey for about $250 monthly. The jury found the plaintiff to be 15% comparatively negligent, which did not apply to the maintenance and cure award.
$662,165.00 awarded to seafarer.