NEW ORLEANS – A seaman is suing two boat captains he claims were intoxicated when they ran a vessel aground in Lake Pontchartrain resulting in him being overboard for eight hours before being rescued by the Coast Guard.

Michael Dempsey filed suit against ABC Marine Towing LLC, Huge Eymard Towing Co. Inc., Kirby Berg (Bourg) and Paul Schmick on April 14 in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court.

Michael Dempsey claims that on April 15, 2014 he was working as a seaman abroad M/V Todd Michael, a vessel owned, operated and controlled by ABC/Eymard when the vessel, captained by Kirby Berg and Paul Schmick, was navigating in waters in the State of Louisiana.  At approximately 11 p.m. the plaintiff claims he informed the captains that the weather was deteriorating and they would be impacted with strong winds and high seas. The plaintiff alleges he advised them to stay in the canal because of the weather and the captains agreed. However, Dempsey asserts when he went to his cabin to sleep, the captains disregarded the weather report and entered Lake Pontchartrain. The plaintiff contends that both captains were severely intoxicated at that time.

The plaintiff asserts he was awakened around midnight when water came through one of his windows of the vessel after the captains ran the vessel aground onto rocks at the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Dempsey alleges he and defendant Schmick suffered significant injuries in the incident. The plaintiff further contends he spent eight hours in the water being beaten by waves on the rock levee before he was rescued by the Coast Guard and that when the Coast Guard tested all vessel members for drugs and alcohol after the incident, the plaintiff was the only person who did not test positive.

The defendants are accused of intoxication while on duty, disregarding weather reports, operating the vessel in a reckless manner, failing to properly steer the vessel to avoid collision, breach of the legally imposed duty of reasonable care owned by defendant to plaintiff, piloting the vessel in unseaworthy conditions, failing to provide a reasonably safe place to work and other acts of negligence.

An unspecified amount in damages is sought for physical pain and suffering, bodily injury, mental pain, anguish, anxiety, and nervousness, medical expenses, loss of wages and employment benefits, lost earning capacity and loss of the enjoyment of life.

The plaintiff is represented by Jennifer N. Willis of New Orleans-based Willis and Buckley APC.

The case has been assigned to Division E Judge Clare Jupiter.

Case no. 2015-3494.

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