Louisiana Record

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Kidnapped seaman sues employers alleging blatant disregard for safety

By Carol Ostrow | Sep 9, 2015

Mv c retriever

A seaman is suing his maritime employers, charging deliberate negligence in a 2011 international hostage situation allegedly causing the plaintiff’s permanent and debilitating injuries.

Wren Thomas sued Edison Chouest Offshore LLC and Galliano Marine Services LLC, both of Galliano, and Offshore and Service Vessels LLC of Cut Off in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana on Aug. 14 alleging negligence in July 2011.

The suit states that despite repeated episodes of international piracy involving its vessels and crews off the West Africa coast since 2011, the defendants failed to adequately protect its employees at sea, despite employees allegedly being attacked, brutally treated and kidnapped.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was hired on July 5, 2011, as a captain and crew member of the American marine vessel C-Retriever, owned and operated collectively by the defendants, to work off the Nigerian coast.

The suit states that after Thomas expressed concerns about security to the defendants regarding the vessel’s age, poor speed and relatively obsolete anti-piracy protection, he received both direct and veiled death threats via the defendants’ radio system.

According to the suit, the defendants received a warning Oct. 17, 2013, from a Nigerian militant group threatening kidnap and arson if their demands were not met, and simply told their employees to be careful. They then allegedly dispatched Thomas on an errand that would take him on a particularly high-risk route.

When Capt. Thomas and his crew departed on Oct. 22, the suit states, they were attacked by pirates, forced to surrender, held captive and tortured for 18 days. He avers that the defendants intentionally sent him on an extremely dangerous mission with full knowledge of the risk of piracy, failing to provide a safe work environment and willfully disregarding his and others’ well-being for the purpose of financial gain.

Claiming severe physical and psychological trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, health issues, pain, anguish, distress, humiliation and permanent impairment, along with financial and marital difficulties, Thomas contends that he is too damaged to pass the required physical exam to renew his license and has lost future earning capacity.

Requesting maintenance and cure, compensatory and punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney’s fees, expenses, and court costs, he is represented by Timothy Young, Tammy Harris, Megan Misko and Daniel J. Poolson Jr. of The Young Firm in New Orleans.

U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana Case 2:15-cv-03487-JTM-SS

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