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Withheld County, MA

In this admiralty negligence matter, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants, the owner operator of a tug boat and a repair company, were negligent in allowing a dangerous condition to exist, which resulted in a pipe containing pressurized oil cracking. The oil sprayed all over the engine room, a fire erupted, and the decedent was engulfed in flames and died approximately three hours later as a result of his injuries, which consisted of second and third degree burns to his entire body. The defendants denied liability, blamed each other, and maintained that the decedent was also negligent and responsible for his injuries.

The 49-year-old male decedent was a marine engineer who began working on the newly renovated tug boat owned by the defendant owner/operator. The decedent had previously worked on the same tug three years earlier, but in the interim, the tug had been purchased by the defendant and renovated extensively. On the date of the incident, the decedent was in the engine room when a pipe containing pressurized oil cracked and sprayed oil. Upon contact with the exhaust manifold, the oil ignited, causing a jet of flames that shot to the ceiling and out the door of the engine room, which was the only means of egress. The decedent had no alternative but to go through the flames in order to attempt to escape. He emerged engulfed in flames suffering second and third degree burns to his entire body. Over the three hours it took for the decedent to be airlifted from the vessel, he was in extreme pain and agony, aware that he would not survive the incident. He died approximately 18 hours after arriving at the hospital. The plaintiff brought suit against the owner of the tug, including the repair company that worked on the vessel. Investigation disclosed that the owner failed to equip the engine room with a second means of egress in the event of emergency or appropriate fire safety equipment. The repair company failed to replace a modified cover plate that was installed on the engine by the vessel’s prior owner, which allowed pressured oil to flow outside of the engine. Thus, created the condition where the oil was able to spray directly into the engine room when the pipe containing that oil cracked.

The defendants denied the allegations and blamed each other for the fire. The defendants also argued that the decedent was contributorily negligent, since he had previously worked on the tug and was aware of the improper design of the pipe and lack of a check valve. The defendants also disputed damages since the decedent left behind no spouse or children. The defendants argued that due to the serious nature of his burns, the decedent’s pain was not as great as the plaintiff alleged, since he would have suffered nerve damage as a result of them.

The matter was resolved for the sum of $________ in a confidential settlement agreement between the parties approximately one month after the matter was mediated.

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