Seaman sues over alleged injuries aboard ship

A merchant seaman is suing the U.S. government in federal court over injuries he allegedly suffered when a loaded pallet pinned him against the railings of a ship that was docked in Japan in 2016.

Saipan-resident Kenneth Lockhart is suing the United States for negligence under the Jones Act, for unseaworthiness, and failure to maintain and cure the vessel. He said the vessel, USNS Montford Point, which is operated and managed by Ocean Shipholdings Inc., is U.S.-owned.

Lockhart, through counsel William M. Fitzgerald, asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to hold the U.S. government liable to pay him damages, medical expenses, loss of earnings, and court costs. He wants a jury trial.

According to Fitzgerald in the complaint, which was filed Tuesday, Lockhart was one of the vessel’s crew on Oct. 17, 2016. On that day, the vessel USNS Montford Point was moored in Yokohama and was preparing to go to sea.

Fitzgerald said the plaintiff was working below deck and was tasked to move a tool storage cabinet from one position below deck to another where it would be stowed.

Instead of using a plate jack or forklift, the second engineer allegedly directed Lockhart and another crewmember to help him slide the loaded pallet across the deck. While doing so the pallet temporarily pinned Lockhart against a railing.

Fitzgerald said after a period of disability during which he received medical care ashore, Lockhart returned to the vessel as a member of the crew.

On Aug. 26, 2017, Fitzgerald said, Lockhart was assigned duties that required him to perform heavy lifting. That allegedly aggravated his injuries, resulting in a second period of disability and medical treatment.

Fitzgerald said the U.S. government breached its duties to plaintiff, in that, it failed, among other things, to promulgate and enforce rules and procedures requiring the use of reasonably required gear and equipment.

“As a direct and legal result of the negligence of the defendant, plaintiff was hurt and injured in his health and strength and sustained personal injuries,” the lawyer said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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