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Elnaham v. Waterman Steamship Corp.

Case Name

Elnaham v. Waterman Steamship Corp.

Type of Injury

SEVERE INJURY TO DOMINANT HAND

Occupation

seaman

Location

New York, NY

Verdict

$5,700,000, reduced as excessive to $4,700,000 (6/0).

Verdict Amount

$4,700,000.00

Case Details

VII/6-1 MARITIME ACCIDENT – JONES ACT – VERDICT FOR SEVERE INJURY TO DOMINANT HAND

Elnaham v. Waterman Steamship Corp. 15807 9-day trial Verdict 10/12/88 Judge Edward J. Greenfield, New York Supreme

VERDICT: $5,700,000, reduced as excessive to $4,700,000 (6/0). Breakdown: $1,700,000 for lost wages; $4,000,000 for pain and suffering. Subsequently settled for an undisclosed amount.

Pltf. Atty: Paul C. Matthews, Manhattan

Deft. Atty: James W. Lynch and Richard J. Reisert of Burlingham, Underwood & Lord, Manhattan

Facts: Pltf. was a 50-year-old seaman on the date of the accident on 4/28/83. The incident occurred on the S.S. Robert E. Lee in Columbo, Sri Lanka. Pltf., born in Yemeni, is a naturalized American citizen.

While the ship was offloading barges laden with cargo, Pltf.’s hand became caught between one of the barges and the hull of the ship. Pltf. brought this action under the Jones Act and General Maritime Law for pain and suffering and lost wages.

Injuries: severe crush injury to the right dominant hand resulting in degloving, severing of the ulnar artery, and compound fractures of four fingers. Pltf. required six surgical procedures and skin grafting. Testimony indicated that Pltf. will be in pain for the rest of his life. Pltf. also suffered from psychological injuries including depression. Pltf. contended that he was unable to return to work at all. He claimed lost earnings based on his prior occupation as an automobile assembly line worker. He had been called back from a lay-off after the injury, but was found unfit to return to the assembly line. He also claimed that he was unable to perform any manual labor, the only appropriate work available to him with his limited education. Pltf. also called an expert who performed psychological tests which showed that his IQ had diminished to such an extent after the accident that he was a poor candidate for retraining for any future employment. Deft. argued that Pltf. was educable and could be trained for a new occupation.

Note: This was the second trial of this action. At the first trial, Pltf. was awarded $150,000, reduced to $37,500 for 75% comparative negligence. The vessel in that case had been found seaworthy. At this second trial, there was a surprise witness who testified, over objection, to facts surrounding the accident. Deft. was not allowed to cross-examine this witness on the subject of his job termination. Deft. had sought to establish a possible motive or bias against the Deft.

Jury deliberation: 1 hour. Offer: $300,000; demand: $1,500,000; amount asked of jury: $5,685,000. Pltf. Experts: Dr. Lawrence Kaplan, neuropsychiatrist, Manhattan; Eugene Spector, on wage losses in the maritime industry; Dr. Philip Taylor, orth. surg., Brooklyn; Edward Provder, rehabilitation expert; Dr. Mitchell Kaplan, plastic surgeon, Brooklyn; Dr. Alexander Morrison, PhD., psychologist; Gerald Lazarowitz, on wage losses in the automotive industry; Edward Feldman, maritime expert . Deft. Experts: Dr. Mortimer Shapiro, psychiatrist, Manhattan; Patrick Gaughan, Ph.D., economist, Economatrix Research Assoc., Short Hills, New Jersey; John Holland, rehabilitation expert.