NEW ORLEANS — A federal court ruled Feb. 14 in a lawsuit involving Marquette Transportation Co. LLC, Kostmayer Construction LLC and Ameri-Force Craft Services Inc. over a barge allision that took place in 2014.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana found multiple parties liable for plaintiff Joseph Solomon’s mental and physical injuries as well as damage to the barges and docks. The court found Marquette Transportation and Kostmayer Construction share fault for the 2014 allision. To the exact split in liability, the court ruled, “as to damages to the barges and dock, Marquette is 80% liable and Kostmayer is 20% liable. As to Solomon’s damages, Marquette is 50% liable and Kostmayer is 50% liable.”

The case began on Dec. 29, 2014 when the tugboat, Myra Eckstein, owned and operated by Marquette Transportation, ran into stationary barges Miss Ashley and Miss Darlene, owned by Monticello Equipment and operated by Kostmayer Construction. The barges were on the East Bank of the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge. At the time of the allision, Solomon was working on the Miss Ashley barge and claimed to have sustained physical and mental injuries. Subsequently, he brought suit against the parties involved claiming the loss of earnings, the loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, mental anguish and emotional trauma.  

At the time of the crash, Solomon was working for Ameri-Force Craft Services, a third-party contractor and work placement agency. Solomon was placed on the Miss Ashely where he completed work as a structural fitter.

In 2015, Marquette Transportation filed for “limitation of liability.” In response, Solomon answered as a claimant. Under the Jones Act, Solomon also brought a third-party claim against Kostmayer. Before the court could decide on its ruling, it first needed to identify three factors: whether Solomon a seaman under the Jones Act, whether Kostmayer or Marquette was negligent under the act and whether the Myra Eckstein was a seaworthy vessel at the time of the accident.

After years of investigation, the court found that since Solomon was a contracted worker for Kostmayer, at the time of the incident, he was covered by the Jones Act and general maritime law. Furthermore, the court found Kostmayer to be negligent in its failure to update the Coast Guard about the location of its barges. The court also concluded that “Kostmayer had a non-delegable duty to provide Solomon with a safe place to work”, and in their failure to do so, proved themselves to be negligent. Since Keith Trout, the captain of the Myra Eckstein, was found to be negligently operating the vessel, the court was able to find the vessel to be unseaworthy under the Jones Act.  

No action was brought against Ameri-Force Craft Services or the owner of the Miss Darlene and Miss Ashley, Monticello Equipment. As a result, the court divided liability between Kostmayer and Marquette.

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