Merchant seaman sue vessel owners over infamous piracy ordeal

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The merchant seaman crew members of a container ship that was at the center of a piracy drama off Somalia in April 2009 are suing the boat owners for nearly fifty million dollars, alleging that their captain ignored warnings to sail clear of pirate-infested waters in and around Cape Horn off of Africa.

The standoff and daring rescue, ordered by President Barack Obama, are to be depicted in a film starring Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips, who offered himself as a hostage to the pirates in exchange for the freedom of his crew and the container ship.

While Captain Phillips was hailed as a hero, his former crew members contend that his actions put them in grave danger when the ship sailed within about 250 miles of the African coast despite international warnings to stay at least 600 miles offshore because of the threat of piracy.

Named in the suits are the owner of the ship, Maersk Line Ltd., and Waterman Steamship Corp., an Alabama company that operated and provided the crew for the ship under a contract. The ship’s captain is not named in the lawsuits, which have been filed in courts in Norfolk, Virginia and Mobile, Alabama.

The lawsuits filed by the eleven merchant seaman claim bodily injuries, among other damages including emotional distress and pain and suffering. They accuse the two vessel owners of negligence, failing to provide safe working conditions, and failing to pay injured crew members reasonable compensation for medical expenses and lost wages.

If you are a Jones Act seaman and have been hurt on the job, call Harmon Smith & Vourvoulias today at 504-717-2093 for a free case evaluation. Our experienced Jones Act lawyers are available to provide you with the help you need to protect your rights under the law.

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By George Vourvoulias

George is a founding member and managing member of Harmon, Smith & Vourvoulias L.L.C., a New Orleans law firm. George concentrates his practice in maritime personal injury, construction litigation, personal injury, workers' compensation, medical malpractice, and DUI defense. George Vourvoulias's Google+ Profile