Widow of deck hand wins multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Moran Towing

The following is the text of a news release from the law firm of Kreindler & Kreindler LLP:

(NEW YORK) (Nov. 15, 2013) — After a lengthy trial earlier this year, a federal judge ruled on Monday in favor of the widow of Ricardo Young, a 58-year-old deckhand employed on a tugboat who in 2009 was crushed to death on the Hackensack River in New Jersey. 

Mr. Young, a resident of Queens, NY, perished when entrapped in the capstan of the boat by a towline under great pressure during an improperly conducted "swing maneuver."  The widow, Avril Young, sued Connecticut-based Moran Towing Corporation for negligence, wrongful death and parental loss.  On November 11, 2013, she and her family were awarded a multi-million dollar judgment in damages by the United States District Court, Southern District of New York.

"Mr. Young's death was horrific and a direct result of poor crew training and supervision, negligence and inadequate operational procedures by the defendant Moran Towing," said attorney Daniel O. Rose of the New York-based maritime and aviation law firm Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, which represented Mrs. Young.  "Mr. Young suffered crushing injuries as the towline constricted him, and ultimately died of asphyxia.  The court concurred with expert testimony that Mr. Young was actually conscious for at least two minutes while his body was being crushed to death."

On December 27, 2009, the 91-foot-long tug upon which Mr. Young, the father of two children, was working was pushing a barge down the Hackensack River from Little Ferry toward Newark, New Jersey.  During a "swing maneuver" by members of the tug's crew to bring in slack that developed in the towline as the tug moved down the river, Mr. Young became entrapped in the towline and was squeezed to death.  The accident was investigated by NJ State Police, OSHA, the NJ Medical Examiner and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Federal Court Ruling is Contrary to Findings of OSHA, U.S. Coast Guard

The opinion rendered by U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet found that Moran provided an unsafe workspace for Mr. Young; failed to provide proper safety training, supervision and procedures for its employees aboard the tugboat; and was directly and vicariously negligent, using procedures that were inadequate and equipment that was unseaworthy.  "Moran's inadequate training and safety procedures not only contributed to the unseaworthiness of the tug and its crew, but also constituted negligence," according to the court's opinion.

Mr. Rose indicates that within hours of the incident, Moran developed a theory that blamed Ricardo Young for his own death.  Moran advanced that theory with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), both of which accepted Moran's claim that Mr. Young's actions had been responsible for his own death.  "Upon reviewing the results of our own investigation and analysis of the facts and the expert testimony presented, the court clearly understood both that Mr. Young did not cause his own death and that Moran's negligence was in fact directly responsible for this loss of life," said Mr. Rose.

"This is yet another case which reveals serious safety shortcomings in the oversight and practices of the tugboat industry which, I believe, require immediate attention and improvements," said Mr. Rose.

Mrs. Young stated that: "We are grateful to the court for holding those who caused my husband's death responsible and for recognizing what Ricardo meant to his family."

Kreindler & Kreindler LLP (www.kreindler.com), based in New York, is the leading law firm representing plaintiffs in the United States and around the world in transportation accident cases and other complex litigation matters involving aviation, maritime vessels, products liability, auto, train and other transportation accidents.  The firm has represented hundreds of personnel injured and killed on tugs, freighters and other cargo ships, as well as people who have suffered injuries or death in recreational boating accidents and as passengers on cruise ships.

By Professional Mariner Staff