MIAMI—May 21, 2012. Miami maritime law firm Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman represented Chief Mate William Skye in a five-day jury trial against Maersk Lines Limited for excessive dangerous working conditions that inflicted heart damage on Skye and subsequently forced him into early retirement. Principals Michael Winkleman and Jason Margulies, along with associate Eric Morales represented Jones Act Seaman and Maersk Lines Limited Chief Mate William Skye in the case William Skye v. Maersk Lines Limited, which raised claims of Maersk working conditions which violated the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, also known as the STCW.
William Skye, 57, was employed on a Maersk vessel named the Sealand Pride. As Chief Mate of the ship, Skye was assigned and required numerous duties that violated STCW working conditions throughout his four years of employment with the company. The STCW calls for time restrictions on licensed seamen in the deck or engine departments of no more than eight hours of work per day. Skye alleged that his daily job duties consisted of standing two four-hour watches, then performing twenty-eight additional job duties associated with his position of Chief Mate. Skye stated his typical work day consisted of 15.75 hours of work per day, which is a violation of 46 USC 8104(d) and also of 46 CFR 15.1111.
Strenuous work conditions have left the plaintiff lacking consistent uninterrupted sleep, and Skye was diagnosed with Left Ventricular Hypertrophy in June 2008 by Dr. Joseph Wachspress. This heart condition results in a physical thickening of the left ventricular portion of the heart, making it difficult for the heart to pump blood and also increasing the odds of a heart attack. In conjunction, Skye suffered an adjustment disorder which led both his cardiologist and psychiatrist to insist upon the Plaintiff’s early retirement, at age 54.
Two former Maersk employees testified on behalf of Plaintiff, Michael McCright and Steven Krupa. McCright was a former relief Chief Mate and he states that the intense duties affiliated with the position made it impossible to complete tasks without performing a significant amount of overtime. Krupa was a former fleet manager for Maersk and he stated that while Maersk was responsible for abiding by STCW laws, Maersk did not do anything to check that crews were able to complete necessary tasks and duties in compliance with STCW work/rest hours. Captain James Brennan also testified that Plaintiff was a competent Chief Mate who had complained to him that complying with STCW work/rest hours was difficult. Evidence presented showed that 185 percent of the Chief Mate’s salary was derived from overtime hours, versus the Captain’s overtime budget of 26 percent.
Maersk was represented by David Horr and Stephanie Wylie from Horr, Novak and Skipp, P.A. The jury awarded $2,088,549.00 to compensate for the ten years of wages Skye will not earn due to his early retirement. They also found non-economic damages totaling $273,750.00. While the jury did not find statutory violations of the STCW, they did find Maersk 25% negligent and Skye 75% comparatively negligent. This comparative negligence finding will be the subject of a post-trial appeal.