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In a bench trial held in a New Orleans federal court, Attorney Matthew D. Shaffer obtained a $1.13M award for his client, a 48 year old father and husband from Fluker, Louisiana. The victory came after months of litigation stemming from a piece of equipment falling on Rodney Watson. His employer, Weeks Marine, Inc., refused to offer any money to settle the claim before trial.

Rodney Watson was a cook in the SMSHphotovessel’s galley when a 400 lb steam table fell over and pinned him. After he was hurt, Mr. Watson tried to do the right thing. He reported the injury and followed his doctor’s orders. But before he was released to return to work, Weeks Marine stopped paying for his medical treatment and terminated him. Mr. Watson then sought the help of Matthew D. Shaffer to recover the benefits owed to him by law. Weeks Marine responded by suing Mr. Watson.

At trial, Judge Carl J. Barbier found that Weeks Marine was negligent and its vessel unseaworthy. The steam table was inadequately secured in the galley, and Weeks Marine failed to have a policy or practice for its inspection. Judge Barbier also found that Weeks Marine arbitrarily terminated Mr. Watson’s maintenance and cure benefits. As a result, Mr. Watson was awarded $1,139,828, including $100,000 in punitive damages for willful failure to pay maintenance and cure and $50,000 in attorney’s fees. Attorneys Paul M. Sterbcow and Jessica L. Ibert of Lewis, Kullman, Sterbcow & Abramson ably assisted in representing Mr. Watson at trial.

Photo2“It was such an honor to represent Mr. Watson in his quest for justice,” said Matthew D. Shaffer. “He has done all the right things his entire life – he worked every day since the 9th grade to support his family, is beloved by co-workers and even though he worked for Weeks Marine for years and received numerous promotions, he was treated unfairly at every turn. We will continue to fight for Mr. Watson and all workers when their just compensation is delayed or denied.”

Matthew D. Shaffer is board certified in Personal Injury Trial Law. He has represented thousands of maritime workers who work on waters across the United States and offshore. If you were or a loved one were injured or killed in a maritime accident, contact Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, LLP today for a free case evaluation at 1-800-282-2122.

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