Our client, a 34 year old ship hand on an oil tanker, was on break from his duties and lit a cigarette in his cabin which caused a sudden explosion and fire, and our client received burns, most severely on his hands. The ship owner declared they were not at fault, that the employee had caused the fire by falling asleep with the cigarette burning, and in any event it was claimed that the laws of the United States should not apply to a foreign owned ship, manned by a foreign crew and managed by a foreign company. Under the laws of another country, our client may have been left with virtually no meaningful compensation for his injuries.
We filed suit on the case along with our co-counsel, Walter Walker, and the case was extensively litigated with a persistent refusal by the defendants to make any settlement offer. We showed that the explosion was caused by a gas leak and was the responsibility of the ship owner. The case was tried before a jury, which awarded 1.75 million dollars. This verdict was appealed to the California Court of Appeals, where the verdict was upheld, and then to the California and United States Supreme Court, both of which refused to hear the case. When the judgment was finally satisfied, our client received 2.2 million dollars, including post-judgment interest. He was able to rest comfortably, knowing that his financial future had been secured, and comforted by the fact that the ship owner and the insurance company were not allowed to get away with their attempt to leave him without compensation.