245 F.3d 525 (5th Cir. 2001), 00-40173, Jackson v OMI Corp.

Docket Nº:00-40173
Citation:245 F.3d 525
Party Name:JAMES A. JACKSON, JR., Plaintiff-Appellee / Cross-Appellant, v. OMI CORPORATION, et al, Defendants, OMI COURIER TRANSPORT, INC., Defendant-Appellant / Cross-Appellee.
Case Date:April 04, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 525

245 F.3d 525 (5th Cir. 2001)

JAMES A. JACKSON, JR., Plaintiff-Appellee / Cross-Appellant,

v.

OMI CORPORATION, et al, Defendants,

OMI COURIER TRANSPORT, INC., Defendant-Appellant / Cross-Appellee.

No. 00-40173

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

April 4, 2001

Page 526

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas

Before JOLLY and DAVIS, Circuit Judges, and RESTANI, Judge[*].

W. EUGENE DAVIS, Circuit Judge.

Following a bench trial, OMI Courier Transport, Inc. ("OMI") was found liable for injuries sustained by Plaintiff Jackson on the basis that its vessel the OMI Courier was unseaworthy and that it was negligent. OMI appeals that decision and the district court's allocation of only 50% contributory negligence to Jackson. Jackson also appeals the allocation of contributory negligence. Because the record does not support the finding that the vessel OMI Courier was unseaworthy or that OMI was negligent, we REVERSE.

I.

Plaintiff Jackson was chief steward aboard the OMI Courier and, although he was new to the Courier, had 35 years of seagoing experience. On March 3, 1998, while the vessel was en route to Mobile, Alabama, Jackson sought out the bosun to discuss an assignment he had received from the Captain that he felt interfered with other duties that needed his immediate attention. While going from the galley to the weather or work deck, he attempted to pass through a doorway and tripped or lost his balance and fell, sustaining injuries that are the basis of this lawsuit. The

Page 527

parties do not dispute that Jackson is a seaman, that the accident occurred or that Jackson was injured in the accident. The district court, after a full bench trial, found that Jackson's injuries were proximately caused by the negligence of OMI and the unseaworthiness of the vessel Courier. The court awarded damages of $227,629.34 after reduction for Jackson's 50% contributory negligence, together with pre- and post-judgment interest.

The Door

The door through which Jackson was attempting to pass had an opening approximately 5 feet high by 3 feet wide. The bottom edge of the doorway was not level with the deck, but raised to create a coaming. A coaming at least 15 inches above the deck is required by Coast Guard regulations to prevent water from flooding from the forward work deck to the accommodation area of the deck. At its highest point, the coaming on this doorway extended 17 3/4 inches above the deck. This was the highest point over which someone would have to step while traversing the doorway. When approaching the door from the interior space of the vessel to reach the outer deck, the first structure encountered is a horizontal stiffener which is approximately 11 inches above the deck and extends 10 inches from the face of the door. The structure of the door also includes vertical steel stiffeners on either side of the doorway which, like the horizontal stiffener, extend approximately 10 inches from the door. Inside these vertical stiffeners, there is a 3/4 inch thick wall surface that projects 5 inches toward the opening of the door.

Photos demonstrate and expert testimony indicates that a crew member going...

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