Washington and the Pacific Coast serves as a gateway to the Far East for the United States maritime trade and vessel traffic. There are a multitude of maritime employers working around, in and hiring Washington. Washington’s waterways are a bit different than most U.S. waterways due to the shape of Puget Sound. It is a body of water lying east of Admiralty Inlet, through which ocean waters reach inland some 50 miles from the Pacific Coast providing ports for large ships at Seattle, Olympia and Tacoma. The waterway is a complex system of islands, channels and inlets. Seattle is in the center of the Puget Sound region and sits between Elliot Bay and Lake Washington. To the West is Bainbridge Island, Kitsap Peninsula, the Olympic Peninsula, Bremerton, Port Orchard and Shelton.
Washington has a robust tugboat Jones Act business. Jones Act employers with roots as far away as Florida such as such as Crowley Marine, a subsidiary of Crowley Maritime Corporation, has a very active tugboat and other type vessel business constantly in and related to the state of Washington. Here is a list of just some of their vessels: Centurian, Commander, Pioneer, Ranger, Adventurer, Alert, Gladiator, Protector, Sea Victory, Sea Voyager, Sentinel, Sentry, Stalwart, Sea Robin, Julie B, Klamath, Marty J, Polaris No. 6, Riverways-10, Sea Swift, Sea Flyer, American Salvor, Cordova, Nikiski, Juneau, Sea Ranger, , Salcha, Sea Viking, New York, and the list goes on and on. Here are the names of additional tugboat operators connected to Washington: Campbell Maritime, Campbell Towing Co., Dahl Tug & Barge, Foss Maritime, Fremont Tugboat Co., Harley Marine Services, Island Tug & Barge, Manke Tug & Barge, Sebring Marine Services, Star Marine, Tidewater Barge Lines, Wasser & Winters Co., Western Towboat and Wick Towing.
Tugboat work is tough and Jones Act injuries happen constantly. Recently, the United States Supreme Court in Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc. et al. v Edgar L. Townsend 2009 WL 1789469 (U.S. June 25, 2009) held that punitive damages can be awarded in arbitrary and capricious failure to pay maintenance and cure benefits to a seaman. It takes experienced Jones Act attorneys to know how to develop these damages and Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP has that knowledge and experience.
Countless injuries have occurred on fish processing vessels; from slipping and falling on fish slime injuring your neck and/or back to fingers and hands getting smashed or traumatically amputated. Though the reporting of these injuries remains poor on these vessels; if it is a serious injury, the employer will sometimes actually try to treat it as a Longshore and Harbors Workers’ Compensation Claim (LHWCA) instead of a Jones Act seaman’s claim. These are two totally different bodies of law and the recoverable damages differ greatly. It is important that you know your Jones Act rights and that is why you need experienced maritime lawyers to assist you. Some of the larger fish processing Jones Act employers in working in and out of Washington are Trident Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods, Signature Seafoods, Snopac Products, Inc. and Premier Pacific Seafoods. Sometimes, these employers have contracts on “venue selection clauses”. It is essential that your Jones Act maritime attorney assess all possible venues before your suit is filed. Also, a complete understanding of the Fishing Vessel Safety Act is essential and can easily be utilized to show the vessel was unseaworthy. If required to file in the state of Washington, Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP will either seek local Washington counsel to assist them to help prosecute your claim and come in by Motion Pro Hac Vice or, we may refer them the case and remain jointly responsible as required. This way, you will actually have two firms for the same contingency fee as one! Of course Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP and any associated firm will have the standard “no recovery then no fees or expenses” fee schedule.
There are many attorneys along the Pacific coast that practice maritime law. However, the facts of each case determine the “venue” options of where your claim can be filed. Just because someone is injured in the state of Washington, does not necessarily mean that the state of Washington is the sole venue. The factors that go into this, among others, are (1) location or “situs” of injury; (2) principle place of business of the maritime employer; (3) if there are “third parties” that may be liable, then their residence or principle place of business; (4) in some instances, the location of a previously filed Limitation of Liability claim will govern; (5) the plaintiff’s residence; (6) the location of signing-on the vessel. Because the Jones Act and Maintenance and Cure are governed by federal law, it is not necessary to solely employ attorneys that just have an office in Washington. What is essential, is that you a hire an experienced maritime law firm. Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP, though Texas based, practice federal maritime law and are Jones Act lawyers licensed in Texas, Washington, D.C. and Louisiana. Our lawyers are not currently licensed in the state of Washington. Our law firm has handled cases from as far west as Hawaii and as far east as Florida. One phone conversation with them will give you the confidence that you have called the right firm to answer your maritime law questions. Be it the Northwest, the Southeast, the Southwest or the Northeastern United States, Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP has what it takes to maximize your recovery.
If you have been injured, call us at (800) 773-6770 or fill a contact form. This is your life, your future and your income and you should make the right decision when choosing a Jones Act attorney to represent you. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.