Federal Court Orders Boat Inspection in Accident Case – Stephens v. Florida Marine Transporters

If you’ve been injured on a boat, it makes sense that you (and your lawyer) would want to take a look at the vessel prior to going to trial in a case related to the accident. In Stephens v. Florida Marine Transporters, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana explains that a company whose deckhand was allegedly injured on one of its boats has to make the vessel available for inspection.

Stephens was injured in an accident while working as a deckhand and crewmember on the M/V CHRIS PIKE. He was injured while attempting to replace two defective ram cylinders on the vessel, each of which weigh roughly 500 or 600 lbs. The cylinders were difficult to handle, according to Stephens, because they did not contain hand-holds. He began complaining of a pulled muscle in his back while finishing the job and said that the pain increased later that night. The back injury eventually required surgery. Stephens sued his employer, Florida Marine Transporters, alleging that the company was negligent and responsible for the injury.

Following a discovery dispute, Stephens filed a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) asking that the company be required to make the CHRIS PIKE available for inspection. He argued that he should be entitled to inspect the boat because that is where he performed the cylinder replacement tasks that allegedly caused his injury.

Meanwhile, Florida Marine argued that inspection was improper because Stephens did not actually suffer an injury aboard the boat. Instead, the back injury was “a mere manifestation of symptoms which occurred in the service of the vessel,” according to the company. Indeed, the company claimed that Stephens did not mention any injury until four days later and at that point complained only of a groin problem. When he was questioned at a hearing, Stephens did not identify a certain point in the cylinder replacement process in which he began to feel pain or injury, according to the company.

The District Court sided with Stephens, finding that questions during a previous hearing “do not unambiguously resolve the issue of whether he actually experienced pain during the process of removing the ram cylinders from the CHRIS PIKE. Specifically, the court said some of these questions asked Stephens whether he “remembered” experiencing any pain during certain aspects of the cylinder replacement, including removing and later re-installing a metal grate. Stephens was not asked whether he actually experienced any pain, according to the court. “Whether Stephens sustained an injury during the grate removal and re-installation process clearly remains at issue,” the court explained. “There is a palpable distinction between admitting that pain was actually ‘felt’ or ‘experienced,’ and merely ‘remembering’ that paid had been felt.

As a result, the court ordered Florida Marine Transporters to make the boat available for inspection within 20 days.

The discovery issue in this case is just one of those that must be considered in a boating accident case. If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident, contact the South Florida boat accident lawyers at Anidjar & Levine. We pride ourselves in responsive, diligent and cost-effective representation. Please take advantage of a free consultation offered by contacting the firm’s Fort Lauderdale offices at 800-747-3733 or online.

Related blog posts:

Court Rules Against Ft. Myers Marina Worker Whose Hand Was Crushed in Docking Accident – Arcure v. McCabe

South Florida Boating Safety: Tips from a Pro

Jurisdiction in Florida Cruise Ship Negligence Cases – Vincenzo v. Carnival