The family members of two crewmembers, who died when the vessel Silver Wings went down in the Gulf of Mexico, have filed Jones Act lawsuits against the employer of their loved ones.
The first lawsuit has been filed by Sandra Williams, the widow of Jerry Martinez Williams, against John Landry Sr. On December 27th 2007, Williams was working as a seaman aboard the Silver Wings, when it sank about 100 miles off the Louisiana cost. Williams’ body was never found, and is presumed to be still in the vessel at the bottom of the sea.
The second lawsuit has been filed by the son of another seaman on the vessel. Walter Morales is the son of William Martinez who died when the vessel went down. In this case too, the body of the dead seaman was never discovered, and is believed to be still entombed in the vessel.
Neither suit specifically states how the vessel sank, but they both claim that the vessel was unseaworthy. The suits allege that the employer failed in his duty to provide a safe work place for his employees.
Just as injured Jones Act workers are able to file personal injury claims against their employer for negligence or claims of unseaworthiness, families of deceased seaman may also be able to bring wrongful death actions against vessel owners and employers. Survivors may be eligible for economic and non economic damages.
Economic damages here include the financial or monetary contributions that the deceased seaman would have made to his dependents, including wife, children or dependent parents, had he lived. However for this, a maritime lawyer must be able to show that the death of the seaman caused his dependents grave financial distress. Family members may also be compensated for non-economic damages like the loss of companionship and affection.