$6.1 million awarded in case of seaman killed on cruise ship

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

FORT LAUDERDALE NEWS AND SUN-SENTINEL

The estate of a Danish seaman who was suffocated by poisonous gas seeping from a sewage holding tank aboard a SeaEscape ship, has won $6.1 million in Jacksonville circuit court.

The incident in November 1983 killed four and injured three crewmembers on the Scandinavian Sky, which was in a Jacksonville dry-dock.

“This verdict sends a message to foreign flag ship owners to clean up their act,” said Charles Lipcon, a Miami attorney representing the estate of Kim Andersen, 23, the dead seaman.

SeaEscape’s vessels are registered in the Bahamas, and crewmembers are not covered by the United States’ occupational safety laws. Lipcon‘s argument to the jury was that the company did nothing to protect its employees, failing to give them gas masks and not telling them of the poisonous gas in the tank.

Jurors on Friday awarded Andersen’s estate $6 million in punitive damages and $100,000 in compensatory damages.

Andersen died as part of a crew instructed to work on a sewage-holding tank.

“When they opened the tank, sewage came out knee high, according to one witness, and waist high, according to another,” said Lipcon. “They were overcome by methane and hydrogen sulfide.”

SeaEscape held raw sewage in the tank and then pumped it overboard in international waters, rather than treat it or dispose of it onshore. The company has discontinued this practice, according to Lipcon.

Lipcon, who said he was offered $50,000 to settle the case before the trial, expects an appeal by SeaEscape. The Jacksonville attorney for SeaEscape and its Miami spokeswoman did not return calls for comment.