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$3 million to a seaman badly injured while working on a ship

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
December 1, 2005        

A Cook County jury on Wednesday awarded nearly $3 million to a seaman who was badly injured in a fall while working on a ship in 2002.  Read full story.

David Michael Bunch sued Maersk Line Ltd. After the accident aboard the container ship Maersk Texas.

He had been in one of the ship’s holds, picking up stacking cones that stabilize containers of freight.  The ship was docked off the coast of Chile at the time.

Bunch fell 9 ½ feet when he failed to see a drop-off in the center of what his attorneys described as a walkway.  His attorneys contend the area was dark and that Maersk knew of the hazard but failed to correct it.

Bunch suffered brain damage, permanent numbness to his face, vertigo, fractures to his right eye socket and chest, and loss of the use of his left hand.

The jury awarded Bunch $3.84 million, but reduced that amount to $2.95 million after deciding he was 30 percent responsible.  Maersk’s attorneys, Robert L. Reeb and William P. Ryan of Marwedel, Minichello & Reeb P.C., said that the jury’s calculation was incorrect and that they will ask that the award be corrected to $2.69 million.

Terrence K. Hegarty said he might appeal or cross appeal on the issue of Bunch’s responsibility for the fall.
Reeb and Ryan said the shipping line denied any negligence.  They said the drop-off was not in a walkway, but at the edge of a cargo tank.  They also said Bunch had a flashlight and should have been able to see the drop-off.

Reeb and Ryan said the plaintiffs had asked the jury for more than $27 million.  They did not know whether the shipping line would appeal the verdict.

The case is David Mike Bunch v. Maersk Line Ltd., No. 03 L 14764.  Circuit Judge Deborah M. Dooling presided over the three-week trial.