South African seaman seeks damages for injuries incurred on yacht

By Karen Kidd | May 20, 2018

FORT LAUDERDALE – A South African seaman injured while the pleasure yacht on which he was employed was undergoing repairs in Ford Lauderdale last fall is seeking "maintenance and cure" and other relief from defendants he says negligently caused his injuries.

Plaintiff Alex Grobler claims that defendants SA Lessard and its Lady S. Management, both Marshall Islands corporations headquarters in Vienna, Virginia, have shown "willful and in callous disregard," according to his 16-page complaint filed May 11 in U.S. District Court for Florida's Southern District, Fort Lauderdale Division. "Defendants' failure to pay and/or provide plaintiff with maintenance and cure was, and continues to be, willful, arbitrary, capricious and in callous disregard for plaintiff's rights as a seaman," Grobler's lawsuit said.

Grobler is suing under the federal Jones Act, also called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which requires cargo shipped between U.S. ports to be done on vessels built, owned and operated by U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Grobler's complaint alleges negligence, unseaworthiness, failure to provide maintenance and cure, failure to treat and an alternate count for negligence in a matter that exceeds $75,000, excluding interest and costs. He also is demanding a jury trial.

Grobler claims that defendants' negligence caused him to suffer "physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, reasonable fear of developing future physical and medical problems, loss of enjoyment of life, physical disability, impairment, inconvenience on the normal pursuits and pleasures of life, feelings of economic insecurity caused by disability, disfigurement, aggravation of any previously existing conditions therefrom, incurred medical expenses in the care and treatment of plaintiff's injuries, suffered physical handicap, lost wages, lost income in the past, and his working ability and earning capacity has been impaired."

Grobler was as a seaman engineer aboard the defendant-owned Lady S, a nearly 130-foot Marshall Islands-flagged pleasure yacht built in 1989 and registered in Florida, when it was berthed at Universal Marine Center shipyard for repairs and maintenance in September. Grobler was injured on Sept. 26 while he and a deckhand were carrying a chiller, his lawsuit said. "The chiller slipped and fell out of his grasp, severing the tibial anterior tendon in his right leg," the lawsuit said.

"Plaintiff was taken to the hospital, and surgery was required to reconnect the tendon," according to court documents.

Defendants in the case "have refused to provide maintenance and cure," including rehabilitative therapy to recover the movement/ability to use his foot and leg," Grobler said in his lawsuit. "Under the General Maritime Law and by operation of treaty, plaintiff, as a seaman, is entitled to recover maintenance and cure from defendants, until he is declared to have reached maximum medical improvement and/or maximum medical cure," Grobler's lawsuit said.

"This includes unearned wages (regular wages, overtime, vacation pay and tips), which are reasonably anticipated to the end of the contract or voyage, whichever is longer."

The lawsuit was filed by the law firm Janssen, Siracusa and Keegan PLLC in West Palm Beach, under case number 0:18-cv-61064-WPD.

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