Plaintiff, a 23-year-old student of the Maine Maritime Academy, was hired by LABORDE MARINE MANAGEMENT as an intern-seaman aboard its vessel the OSV HILDA LAB as assistant to the vessel’s chief engineer. After serving on the vessel for over 30 days plaintiff was tasked with assisting in the cleaning of the drip pan from the evaporator of a cooler in the vessel’s galley.

Plaintiff began the cleaning process by removing the various components of the drip pan from the cooling unit; upon removing its cover plaintiff observed that the drip pan was filled with dark scummy water which had backed up in the pan because of an improper pitch of the drain pipe to the bilge.  As plaintiff was beginning his scrubbing of the pan his supervisor, without notice or warning, blasted the murky water filled drip pan with compressed air in an attempt to remove the water quicker.  As a result of the blast of air the scummy water splashed and sprayed on plaintiff’s face.  Though angry with the experience plaintiff shrugged it off, cleaned his face and returned to complete his assigned task.

Approximately one week later plaintiff began to experience flu-like symptoms.  Over the next two weeks plaintiff’s symptoms then progressively worsened making it first difficult, and then impossible, to complete his assignments aboard the vessel. Days later, once the vessel was at port plaintiff was so weak that he had to be nearly carried from the vessel to the company van for transportation to defendant’s office in Morgan City; there a safety office secured his transportation to a local medical clinic.  At the clinic a medical examiner advised defendant that plaintiff was suffering from extreme pulmonary distress and that he needed immediate emergency care.  Plaintiff was immediately transported to Terrebonne Medical Center (TMC) where the medical staff diagnosed plaintiff with Legionnaire’s Disease. Plaintiff was finally brought to Ochsner’s Medical Center in Jefferson Parish where he remained for several weeks until the excellent treatment provided there brought him back from death’s door.  Following his discharge from TMC plaintiff returned to Maine to complete his education, graduated and is now a blue water seaman sailing the seven seas and having his time in the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana a distant and horrible memory.

Plaintiff filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.  Plaintiff alleged that LABORDE MARINE MANAGEMENT, his Jones Act employer vessel owner of the OSV HILDA LAB, was negligent for failing to follow the widely accepted Legionnaire’s Disease avoidance protocols of investigating for, management of and sanitization of standing water environments. The protocols are shown to reduce the chances the reproduction of legionella bacteria, bacteria that is common in most standing water environments.  Legionnaire’s Disease occurs when standing water environments allow the reproduction of the legionella bacteria to a level to be hazardous to humans.  Plaintiff also alleged that defendant was negligent in not establishing a Job Safety Analysis for dealing with the cleaning of standing water environments, especially within the maritime.  Plaintiff lastly alleged that the OSV HILDA LAB was unseaworthy because of the improper pitch of the drain line, because of the simple presence of legionella bacteria to the level needed for infection of its seamen.

Following a judge trial before Judge Ivan Lemelle a judgment was rendered for plaintiff on both the negligence and unseaworthy causes of action.  Judgment provided judgment for plaintiff in the amount of $150,00 for pain and suffering, economic wage loss of $150,000 and future medical expenses in the amount of $10,000, together with judicial interest from date of incident and Court costs.


This lawsuit is one of many dive settlements that are part of the complex body of maritime law. This can be a tricky area for many to navigate, but the law firm Delise & Hall has built a practice based on years of experience and knowledge in this practice. For more information about maritime law in general, the Jones Law, or settlements in dive lawsuits and other maritime suits, you can access the firm's website at or call them at 1-800-DIVER 55 (1-800-348-3755).