Close up of a boat propeller at a dry dock

Our Mobile, Ala., Office Files General Maritime Lawsuit Against Austal USA

Beasley Allen lawyer Wyatt Montgomery practices in our Personal Injury and Product Liability Section and is based out of our Mobile, Alabama, office. Wyatt filed a lawsuit against shipbuilder Austal USA on behalf of a contract worker seriously injured while working on one of the company’s dry docks.

Wyatt brought the lawsuit under U.S. general maritime law, a body of law that provides common law remedies to anyone who suffers an injury at sea or in a naval occupation. Those who seek relief under general maritime law are not entitled to protections under specific statutes, such as the Jones Act or Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.

The personal injury lawsuit alleges that the contractor was working on an Austal dry dock when he slipped on a slick surface and fell. For anyone unfamiliar with dry docks, it is a giant basin that holds a ship, allowing maintenance or repair in a dry environment after draining its water.

Dry dock work is extremely hazardous. Several types of accidents and injuries are associated with dry dock work, including fires, shifting and falling loads, accidental machine start-ups, heavy equipment defects and malfunctions, and one of the most common injuries – slips and falls. Dry dock accidents such as these result in burn injuries, electrical shock, crushing injuries, broken bones, and death, to name a few.

The accident that injured our client occurred because Austal USA failed to take adequate measures to protect workers from these well-known and foreseeable risks. As a result, the contract worker we represent, in this case, suffered catastrophic injuries to his leg and other parts of his body.

Under general maritime law, the drydock owner must maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition for its intended purpose in much the same way as a property owner has a duty to take reasonable measures to keep their premises and the people lawfully present safe, under the principles of common law negligence.

Of course, it may seem that slippery conditions on a dry dock or other vessel or property on or near the water would be inevitable. However, the unique dangers of maritime work are well-known and detailed by federal safety regulations.

For instance, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations require that maritime employers provide safe “working surfaces” for workers, including preventing “slippery conditions.” The agency also identifies practical means employers can take to keep dangerously slick surfaces dry. Employers may be liable when they fail to take the proper measures to protect workers from harm.

Unlike specific statutes, general maritime law is a body of law established through decades of historical court cases, judicial doctrine, and legal precedent. If you have a client seriously injured on or near a navigable waterway, Wyatt Montgomery and Evan Allen in our Mobile office have the expertise and experience in maritime law to help you build a solid case and maximize your client’s compensation.

This personal injury case is one of the cases Wyatt and Evan are investigating and litigating under U.S. General Maritime Law and The Jones Act. If you have any questions or want more information, contact us using the form at the bottom of this page.

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