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Admiralty & Maritime Law

Crewman Sues Over Ship Safety in High-Profile Piracy Case

Posted Apr 27, 2009 6:39 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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His ship's high-profile story had a relatively happy ending, except for the alleged pirates accused of taking the American captain hostage near Somalia.

But the chief steward has nonetheless filed suit in Harris County, Texas, contending that the owners of the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama freighter didn't do enough to keep the crew safe in pirate-infested waters, reports Bloomberg. Allegedly, during the 12 hours or so the crew was held in a windowless engine room, the temperature reached about 130 degrees.

After being captured with the rest of the crew and taken hostage before ship captain Richard Phillips offered himself in their stead, Richard Hicks, 53, is now seeking damages for lost income and medical expenses under the Jones Act, which allows seamen to sue vessel owners for injuries allegedly caused by negligence.

“I’m going through a lot of mental stress,” the Royal Palm Beach, Fla., resident tells the news agency in a telephone interview. “I can’t return to my job. I thought I was going to die out there.”

The Maersk owners declined or did not respond to Bloomberg requests for comment.

Houston, where the state-court lawsuit was filed, is a common location for Jones Act claims.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Kuby May Represent Teen Somali Pirate, Due in US Court Today"

ABAJournal.com: "New ‘Hague’ for Pirates Might Be Kenya"

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