On Sunday, March 25th, it was reported that a Maine Maritime Academy graduate had won $310,000 in a lawsuit over Legionnaires’ disease which they contracted during their summer internship with LaBorde Marine Management LLC of New Orleans while aboard an offshore vessel in August 2013. The federal judge in the case awarded the graduate $150,000 for lost wages, another $150,000 for pain and suffering, as well as $10,000 for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle concluded that LaBorde Marine Management LLC of New Orleans was negligent in keeping the intern safe from Legionnaires’ disease however found no credible evidence that the company had moved from ordinary negligence to wanton misconduct. As such, U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle denied the plaintiff’s demand for punitive damages.
According to the case, the graduate apparently contracted the disease while cleaning a refrigerator drain. Apparently the intern did not receive proper safety methods, according to court documents. Once the disease had been contracted, the graduate ended up being hospitalized for a month and requiring a year for the intern to eventually return to school. As such, they ended up graduating from the Maine Maritime Academy in 2015, a year later than other classmates.
According to the plaintiff’s attorney, Michael Savasuk of Portland, the judgment is in fact “a landmark decision.”
“Just two cases have been reported outside of cruise vessels,” Mr. Savasuk said. “One was in Italy on a tank barge. The other was in Alaska on an offshore vessel. Other people will be able to use this case to pursue actions concerning legionella.”
This final point is perhaps the most important aspect of this case. Mr. Savasuk is correct to highlight that outside of cruise vessels, cases involving Legionella bacteria and Legionnaires’ disease on offshore vessels is fairly rare. As such, by having a ruling like this one, it may provide an additional resource and precedent for potential plaintiff’s to use in their own cases.
Jules Zacher is an attorney in Philadelphia who has tried Legionnaires’ disease cases across the U.S. Please visit LegionnaireLawyer.com again for updates.