JANUARY 31, 2011 by Bill Abbott
Wojciech Bielunas was a Polish immigrant that came to the United States and settled in Pennsylvania in 1995. Bielunas had previously worked on fishing boats before he came to the U.S. and was hired by Misty Dawn, Inc. as a commercial fisherman. Misty Dawn had a practice of storing clam cages in the walkways of the ship that Bielunas worked on. In order to get through the walkways, the crew was required to shimmy along an unguarded ledge overlooking a nine-foot drop.
While working on the ship, Bielunas was asked to close the hatch that covered the cargo hold of the vessel. This required him to stand in the cluttered walkway. Bielunas lost his balance and got his foot caught between the ledge of the walkway and the cover to the hatch. Bielunas’ foot was crushed in the accident. Despite undergoing numerous emergency surgeries, Bielunas permanently lost the use of his foot.
The maritime lawyers that represented the employee in Bielunas v. Misty Dawn, Inc., argued several key points that led to a multi-million dollar verdict in this case. First, the maritime lawyers contended that the company was negligent for storing clam crates in the walkways of the vessel and that they created a safety hazard. Second, due to the extent of the injury, Beilunas would not be able to perform any type of labor or physical work. Third, Beilunas’ English skills were extremely limited which would prevent him from getting a job in an office setting where he could sit down. Basically, Beilunas’ maritime lawyers built a case around the fact that it would be extremely difficult for him to secure future employment in any capacity.
The court agreed with Beilunas’ maritime lawyers that Misty Dawn was negligent and that the company’s negligence caused Beilunas’ injury. The maritime lawyers that represented Beilunas explained to the jury that their client’s medical bills and economic losses came to a total of $762,000. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Beilunas for $2,307,690. If you have been injured while working on a vessel or watercraft, you should contact the maritime lawyers in your area immediately to find out if you may have an injury claim against your employer.