We represented Rudy Lee, a courageous man who had volunteered for service in the United States Marine Corps. Rudy served honorably in Vietnam. Rudy was an ordinary seaman working on a roll-on/roll-off ferry. The vessel's mooring chocks had been improperly constructed. Rudy's union, the Inland Boatmen's Union of the Pacific, sent a letter complaining about the improperly constructed mooring chocks and citing them as a safety hazard.
These rollers had been put together dry and were frozen in place, thus they would not turn. The frozen rollers placed an undue strain on the line and made it much harder for the deck crew to tie the ship up.
Rudy was therefore ordered to rebuild the roller chocks while the ship was underway. This presented particular problems because the chocks were flush with the ship's hull, and Rudy had to be careful not to drop the rollers over the side when he took them apart, and then when he put them back together. It would have been a relatively simple job to rebuild these chocks if it had been done while the ship was alongside the dock, and with properly installed scaffolding, templates, and dollies. Instead, Rudy, equipped with just wrenches, was assigned to take these apart, fix them, and then put them back together.
After taking the first one apart, Rudy realized that the rollers were heavy. He estimated that they weighed between 50 and 100 pounds. When he rebuilt the starboard spring line station, he had to lift the roller to put it back into the chock. Upon lifting the roller, he injured his knee. Rudy underwent three knee surgeries to repair the damage.How We Helped
After the lawsuit was filed, we took the testimony of the vessel owner's safety officer. He said that crew members should not be required to lift more than 50 pounds unless they have a mechanical device to aid the lift. Once the lawsuit was filed, we were able to weigh the roller. It weighed 138 pounds.
We sued Rudy's employer for failure to provide Rudy with a safe place to work, for unseaworthiness, and for negligent supervision. Rudy's employer refused to pay a reasonable amount to settle the case. We took the case to trial and won of total judgment of $400,000 for Rudy.
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