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Knight v. Kirby Offshore Marine, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 10, 2019

ANDREW LEE KNIGHT
v.
KIRBY OFFSHORE MARINE, LLC ET AL.

         SECTION “H”

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Andrew Lee Knight brings claims for damages he suffered in an accident that occurred while he was working as a tankerman aboard the M/V SEA HAWK, a vessel owned by Defendant Kirby Offshore Marine Pacific, LLC (“Kirby”). Plaintiff brings a negligence claim under the Jones Act and an unseaworthiness claim under the general maritime law against Defendant Kirby, his employer. This matter went to trial February 19 through 20, 2019. Having considered the evidence admitted at trial and the arguments of counsel, this Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law. To the extent a finding of fact constitutes a conclusion of law, and vice versa, the Court adopts it as such.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         1. Kirby, a marine transport company, owned and operated the M/V SEA HAWK, a tow boat.

         2. At all material times, Plaintiff Andrew Knight was a Jones Act seaman employed by Kirby as an offshore tankerman.

         3. Knight boarded the M/V SEA HAWK in December 2016 near Seattle, Washington for a voyage that involved towing a barge from Everett, Washington to Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

         4. The M/V SEA HAWK was captained by Alan Ryan, a Kirby employee, during its voyage from Everett to Dutch Harbor.

         5. The M/V SEA HAWK stopped at various ports along its voyage including Vancouver, British Columbia; Anacortes, Washington; Port Angeles, Washington; Hoonah, Alaska; and Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

         6. The M/V SEA HAWK last stopped in Hoonah, Alaska before reaching Dutch Harbor.

         7. Aboard the M/V SEA HAWK during this voyage was a stern line used by the crew to secure the barge to the tow boat when entering and exiting ports. The stern line was not used in open water.

         8. The stern line was firm, several inches thick, and more than 100 feet long.

         9. Captain Ryan conducted an inspection of the stern line in Everett and at that time the stern line appeared slightly used but not chafed.

         10. Once the stern line becomes chafed it is important to change the line at the earliest possible time that it is safe to do so.

         11. Captain Ryan inspected the stern line as it was being used to secure the barge to the M/V SEA HAWK during the tow boat's entrance into Hoonah, and at that time the stern line was in good condition.

         12. The stern line was used to secure the barge to the M/V SEA HAWK while the tow boat was in Hoonah.

         13. While the M/V SEA HAWK was anchored in Hoonah, a storm blew in. The storm produced five-foot seas and winds of 60 miles per hour.

         14. While the stern line was being used in Hoonah, the rough weather conditions caused the line to chafe.

         15. After the M/V SEA HAWK left Hoonah, the stern line was hauled back onto the tow boat.

         16. Crew members should inspect the stern line every time there is an opportunity to do so. Captain Ryan testified, however, that it was company policy to inspect the lines before entering a port but not when leaving a port.

         17. The crew had an opportunity to inspect the stern line before the M/V SEA HAWK departed Hoonah.

         18. Captain Ryan should have known that the line was chafed before the M/V SEA HAWK departed Hoonah.

         19. The stern line could have been changed while the M/V SEA HAWK was in Hoonah.

         20. The stern line also could have been changed shortly after the M/V SEA HAWK left Hoonah.

         21. The M/V SEA HAWK departed Hoonah sometime before January 1, 2017.

         22. On January 6, 2017, the M/V SEA HAWK was a vessel operating in the navigable waters of the United States near Alaska's Kenai Peninsula.

         23. On January 6, 2017, the weather conditions where the M/V SEA HAWK was located included four-foot seas and ...


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