King County Judge Finds American Seafoods Negligent for Crane Access on the F/T AMERICAN DYNASTY and Awards Damages to Injured Combination Worker
On September 5, 2018, in Hoffas v. American Seafoods Company, King County Superior Court Cause No. 17-2-01150-9 SEA, a King County Superior Court judge held that American Seafoods was “. . . negligent for failing to provide [the injured seaman] with a safe place to work on March 2, 2016 because the access to the mid-ship crane control was not reasonably safe, violated the company’s own policies, and violated relevant industry standards, without handholds . . .” on board the F/T AMERICAN DYNASTY.
The injured combination worker was ordered to operate the starboard mid-ship crane to assist with deck operations. The mid-ship crane was a knuckle-style crane with the capacity to reach all parts of the trawl deck. The crane was stowed in a cradle forward of the crane when it was not in use and can rotate 360-degrees. It was equipped with a wireless remote control that allows the crew to operate the crane from anywhere on the deck to stay out of the weather and avoid having to climb up into the control tower. Unfortunately, the remote control was not available on March 2, 2016 because it was broken or the chief engineer had taken it out-of-service to avoid the crew misplacing the unit. Because he could not use the remote control, Hoffas had to climb up into the control tower using a fixed ladder on the base of the crane pedestal and then transfer 90-degrees to a fixed ladder that extended up to the control tower. When Hoffas had finished using the crane, he attempted to descend down the fixed ladder from the control tower. There were no hand-holds for the lower ladder. As he stepped down from the top ladder trying to rotate 90-degrees to the top rung of lower ladder, Hoffas slipped on the first rung of the lower ladder and fell hard 3-5 feet to the deck. The distance between the bottom rung of the upper ladder and top rung of the lower ladder was at least 17-inches down and 4.18 inches over. Hoffas testified that the upper ladder was loose from striking the bulkhead on the other side of its rotation multiple times and that a control cord was wrapped around the rungs of the upper ladder. During the fall, Hoffas twisted his left knee and was seriously injured. The photograph below shows the ladders coming down from the control tower:
The Ladder Violates American Seafoods’ Own Safety Standards.