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Tyree R. Webb v. Teco Barge Line

March 7, 2012

TYREE R. WEBB, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TECO BARGE LINE, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge

ORDER FOLLOWING BENCH TRIAL

Somewhere deep inside their hearts and minds, there was a hope that the storm would not be bad. Especially for those that had no means to get out.

But when she came with all her haste and wild destructive force, they realized then, they had become her main course! Devastation hung on the city with no reprieve.

The winds were rampant as the waters gave heave.

In the distance, cries rung out and suddenly there was no way out!

No more time to plan or thinking to do.

Just pick up the pieces and start life anew.

Some were left bitter, some were bold.

Only the future holds the answers yet untold.

Some will learn from nature's lesson at last!

Some blame God and other's blame Bush.

But, who's really to blame when Katrina came?

Yet still, it is a voice in our history just the same!*fn1

Plaintiff Tyree Webb brought this action against his employer, defendant TECO Barge Line, Inc., pursuant to the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 ("the Jones Act"), 46 U.S.C. § 30104, and General Maritime Law. Plaintiff designated this matter as an admiralty or maritime case under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(h) and the Court heard this matter as a bench trial on September 6, 2011, and September 13, 2011. For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that plaintiff Webb suffered total damages, including prejudgment interest for his past damages, in the amount of $4,293,271.56 as a direct result of Hurricane Katrina and defendant's negligence.

I. Undisputed Facts*fn2

A. The Pleadings And Defendant's Opening Statement Establish the Following Undisputed Facts

1. On August 24, 2005, Tropical Depression 12 strengthened into Hurricane Katrina and a hurricane warning was issued for the southeastern Florida coast. On August 25, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck Florida and caused the deaths of at least nine persons before moving into the Gulf of Mexico. On August 26, 2005, in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina striking the Louisiana coast, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency. At approximately 4:00 p.m., on August 26, 2005, the National Weather Service issued a prediction of a 45% chance of a category 4 or 5 hurricane striking the United States Gulf Coast region including the area near Davant, Louisiana where the M/V Anita M and the M/V Ann Peters were moored. At approximately 5:00 p.m., New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour both declared a state of emergency. On August 27, 2005, at approximately 5:00 a.m., a hurricane warning was issued for Louisiana's southeastern coast and for the northern Gulf Coast. At this time Katrina was a category 3 hurricane with winds in excess of 115 miles per hour. Later on August 27, 2005, National Hurricane Director Max Mayfield called New Orleans Mayor Nagin to advise a mandatory evacuation. At approximately 7:00 a.m. on August 28, 2005, Hurricane Katrina became a category 5 hurricane with winds in excess of 160 miles per hour. At 11:00 a.m., Mayor Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans and President Bush declared a state of emergency in Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans area as a category 4 storm with 145 mile per hour winds. (Second Amended Complaint, par. 3, admitted by Amended Answer, par. 3).

2. On August 29, 2005, plaintiff Tyree M. Webb worked as the chief engineer on board the M/V Ann Peters. The M/V Ann Peters was at that time on the Mississippi River at approximately mile 55.0 near Davant, Louisiana, near another vessel, the M/V Anita M which was also owned, controlled, and/or operated by defendant. Plaintiff Tyree Webb was ordered by defendant to transfer to the M/V Anita M at approximately mile 55.0 on the Mississippi River near Davant, Louisiana, mere hours before the vessel was struck by Hurricane Katrina, a category 4 hurricane with winds in excess of 145 miles per hour. The M/V Anita M is an inland river towboat, approximately 170 feet long by 45 feet wide, with diesel engines developing a maximum of approximately 6,800 horsepower. The M/V Anita M was not designed, equipped, or intended to protect crew members from the force of a hurricane. (Second Amended Complaint, par. 4, admitted by Amended Answer, par. 4).

3. Around the time of Hurricane Katrina, the M/V Ann Peters was used for "fleet work," meaning moving barges around and building tows. (Chris Lee Deposition, p. 10).

4. Although defendant's company policy required the vessel Master or Pilot on watch to take action to ensure the safety of crew members and although defendant had previously ordered evacuation of its vessels when a hurricane was imminent, defendant's officers, agents, servants, or employees ordered the vessel and its crew, including plaintiff, to remain in the Davant, Louisiana area for the duration of the hurricane. The crew, including plaintiff, obeyed this order, and remained on board the M/V Ann Peters or the M/V Anita M for approximately the next three days. During that time, the hurricane battered the vessel for at least eight hours and caused significant damage that required, among other things, emergency pumps to be set up in order to avoid sinking of the vessel. Immediately before the storm struck, the M/V Anita M and the M/V Ann Peters were moored near the eastern bank of the Mississippi River. During the course of the hurricane, the vessels broke loose from their moorings and were driven by the hurricane onto the land on the opposite bank of the river, approximately one-quarter of a mile upriver and approximately one-half mile west from where they had originally been moored. After running aground neither vessel could move and the M/V Anita M was battered by numerous barges and other objects during the remainder of the storm. The day after the storm finally abated, defendant transported plaintiff Webb by vehicle to defendant's operations office in Metropolis, Illinois where he received counseling through defendant's employee assistance program, instead of transporting him to a psychiatric facility with licensed personnel. (Second Amended Complaint, par. 5, admitted by Amended Answer, par. 5).

5. Boats operated by Ingram Barge Line and defendant's sister company, TECO Bulk Terminal, had evacuated in advance of the storm. (Deposition Ray Franklin, pp. 88-91). Defendant TECO Barge Line, Inc. decided that the M/V Ann Peters and the M/V Anita M, along with the crews of both vessels, would remain at mile 55 of the Mississippi River, approximately 50 miles downriver from New Orleans. (Ray Franklin Deposition, pp. 74-75).

II. ADDITIONAL FINDINGS OF FACT

A. Defendant Ordered the M/V Anita M and the M/V Ann Peters Employees To Remain At Mile 55 as Anchors to the Eighty Barge Flotilla that was in Place While Sending Terminal Employees Out of Harm's Way

6. Defendant's amended answer does not contend nor does its evidence suggest that if defendant had ordered its employees to evacuate from the Davant, Louisiana area, the crew members would still have been exposed to a storm of life-threatening proportions. The testimony of the vice-president of TECO Bulk Services, Inc., Rod Palmer, established that the TECO Bulk Terminal boats departed from the bulk terminal near Davant -the same place that the M/V Anita M and the M/V Ann Peters stayed -before the hurricane and made it "almost up to Baton Rouge." (Rod Palmer Deposition, pp. 37-38). Every one of the Bulk Terminal employees was "okay." Id. The M/V Anita M arrived at mile 55 at approximately 1400 hours on August 27, 2005, and for the remaining ten hours of that day assisted the M/V Ann Peters to "secure fleets in preparation for Hurricane Katrina." (Plaintiff's Exhibit 3). This work continued from 0001 hours until 1900 hours on August 28, 2005. (Plaintiff's Exhibit 4).

7. Ray Franklin was captain of the M/V Ann Peters. Captain Franklin described building the hurricane tow as making "a little fort out of these barges". (Ray Franklin Deposition, p. 72). Franklin described the gap as a "duck pond" in the middle. Id.*fn3 Franklin explained that barge 703B "MTY" was positioned behind and perpendicular to the two boats, "[j]ust like shutting a door." Id. This configuration is illustrated in Plaintiff's Exhibit 9:

8. The stress that the crews of both boats were under as the hurricane approached is clear and is illustrated in Ray Franklin's video deposition.

Although Captain Franklin gave his testimony almost four years after the hurricane, when he described positioning the final barge in the barge fort, Captain Franklin - a twenty-nine-year veteran licensed towboat captain in command of the M/V Ann Peters - broke down and could not continue his testimony. See Ray Franklin Deposition at pp. 72-73; video deposition at 15:37:29-15:37:58.

9. The crew of the M/V Ann Peters evacuated that vessel in favor of the larger M/V Anita M a few hours before the storm. (Exhibit 6, Log of the Ann Peters August 28, 2005; Robert Keller Deposition, p. 34-35; Chris Lee Deposition, p. 14-15). The log of the M/V Ann Peters reflects that at 2230 hours the crew of that boat "boarded M/V Anita M due to the severity off [sic] Hurricane Katrina (unsafe to stay on Ann Peters)." (Exhibit 6, Log of the Ann Peters August 28, 2005).

10. The log of the M/V Ann Peters for Monday, August 29, 2005, indicates that at 0430 hours the crew was riding out Hurricane Katrina. (Exhibit 11, Log of the Ann Peters for August 29, 2005). The log further indicates that at some time between 1410 and 1200 the barge fleet broke away and the "boat broke out of tow, grounded mile 55, take on water from wind swells from Hurricane Katrina." (Id.).

11. Before the storm, the barges were secured tightly to each other and the boats were secured tightly to the barge tow. (Chris Lee Deposition, p. 44). Despite that, the violence of the storm caused the barge fleet to break away during the hurricane. (Plaintiff's Exhibit 6, Handwritten log of Ann Peters; Ray Franklin Deposition, pp. 93-94; Chris Lee Deposition, p. 44). The pilot of the Ann Peters, Jerry Wayne Crockerell,*fn4 characterized this as "the big punch," "the mother of all storms." (Crockerell Deposition, p. 62). James Grubb, Captain of the M/V Anita M, testified that the boat was running full speed ahead right before it landed on the opposite bank. (Grubb Deposition, pp. 81-82). This was to "keep it from running back upstream." (Id. at 80). The storm surge was what was pushing the vessels upstream. (Id.).

12. The vessels started off moored just downriver from the coal dock on the eastern bank of the river and ended up on the levee on the western bank of the river, about a quarter mile upriver from where they had started. (Chris Lee Deposition, pp. 42-43; Johnson Deposition, p. 63). The boats quickly crossed the river with winds in excess of 100 miles per hour propelling it. (Grubb Deposition, pp. 82-83).

B. Hurricane Katrina Strikes Davant, Louisiana

13. At the beginning of the storm, the vessels were facing upriver. (Chris Lee Deposition, p. 42). Both vessels eventually came to rest on the opposite, or west bank, facing 180 degrees opposite from the way they had started. (Trial Testimony, William Love, Day 1, Vol. I, pp. 39-41; Trial Testimony, Vogene Couch, Day 1, Vol. I, p. 184; Chris Lee Deposition, pp. 43-44; and see Exhibits 9,16 and 25).

14. Once the storm began, the boat began rocking. (Chris Lee Deposition, p. 41). The steel cables securing the fleet broke, and the breaking of these cables sounded like gunshots. (James Grubb Deposition, pp. 70-71). The M/V Anita M and the M/V Ann Peters crashed into each other during the storm after the vessels got across the river. (James Grubb Deposition, pp. 71-72). The crew could hear the rigging break. (Chris Lee Deposition, p. 45). The face wires -heavy metal cables secured to winches on the head deck of the boat - snapped during the storm. (Johnson Deposition, p. 36-37).

15. The log for the M/V Ann Peters for August 29, 2005, indicates that at 1100 hours, the crew of that boat was still on the M/V Anita M and that the storm had caused "major damage to Ann Peters." (Exhibit 11.).

16. William Sandage was the pilot on the M/V Anita M. He has been a licensed river pilot since 1974. (Sandage Deposition, p. 4). Sandage was "between the sticks," or operating the vessel at the time the tow broke loose. (Id. at 53). Sandage explained that the Anita M had a "swing meter." (Id. at 53-54). "The swing meter tells you the -- when you are actually moving, the tow is moving. And it's just fluctuating, you know, as long as you're tied off. But when it --when it (gesturing) -- I knew it was just gone." (Id. at 54). The indicator on the swing meter told Sandage that "your stern was going around and your head was coming down" and that "[e]verything is going to the starboard." (Id.). The meter was telling Sandage that the boat was spinning around and at that point, he knew he was in danger of colliding with all the barges. (Id.). Sandage testified that this was "really frightening." (Id. at 55).

17. Sandage "started taking evasive maneuvers . . . ." (Id. at 53). He "[s]tarted driving the boat like I normally do, trying to make adjustments and corrections, you know, trying to pull the head down and get the tow flat because we're going to hit on the other side of the river. So I got the towboat down. It -- it landed flat. Everything landed flat. Boats landed flat. The wind caught the tow. The boats were on the ground. And everything -- all of the face rigging went and the barges went away. But we were left over on the west bank." (Id. at 55).

18. When the vessel landed on the bank "we hit the trees. I mean, it flattened out -- the tow flattened out the trees." (Id.). "[A]ctually the worst of it was all of the wave action; you know, once -- once the barges were away from you, you know, nothing to stabilize you" and because you were no longer secured, you were bouncing around even more. (Id. at 55-56).

19. All of the crew members expressed concern about remaining on the vessel in Davant during a hurricane. (Robert Keller Deposition, p. 33). Numerous crew members testified that they feared for their lives during the hurricane. (Tyree Webb Trial Testimony, Day 1,Vol. I, pp. 80-81; William Love Trial Testimony, Day 1,Vol. I, p. 36; Wayne Crockarell Deposition, pp. 74-75; Ray Franklin Deposition, p. 70; Tim Powell Deposition, pp. 17-18). The following colloquy between Captain Franklin and plaintiff's counsel during Franklin's deposition illustrates his feelings surrounding the situation:

Q. When you were actually in the wheelhouse of the ANITA M, Captain, were there occasions when you were afraid that the storm might take your life or the lives of the other crew?

A. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Q. All right. And how long did that go on --A. Oh, hours.

Q. -- when you had those thoughts?

A. Yes. You didn't know. I mean, unless you was there, you didn't know. (Ray Franklin Deposition, p. 68).

20. Some members of the crew began feeling anxious as soon as they found out they were staying for the hurricane. (Wayne Crockarell Deposition, pp. 100-01). "It just kept getting worse every minute." (Id. at 101). The growing anxiety was exacerbated by the behavior of the company vice-president, David O'Neill, who violated an industry safety policy*fn5 by jumping into the river to "swim" a line to a mooring structure. (William Sandage Deposition, pp. 35-40; Richard Johnson Deposition, pp. 32-33). TECO had adopted "The Deckhand's Manual" which includes a set of safety rules that are "pretty universal" in the industry. (Sandage Deposition, p. 38-39; and see Plaintiff's Exhibit 21). Rule 18 states: "Do not jump into the river to swim a line ashore. Use the yawl. Swimming off the boat or barges is prohibited." (Sandage Deposition, p. 39). O'Neill's conduct violated this basic safety rule. (Id.; Tyree Webb Trial Testimony, Day 1, Vol. I, p. 69). In doing so, Mr. O'Neill caused the crew to question his judgment and whether he was making rational decisions for their safety. (Tyree Webb Trial Testimony, Day 1, Vol. I, p. 70).

21. O'Neill, acknowledged that his tactic was in violation of the company rules. (David O'Neill Deposition, p. 68). In ordinary circumstances and times he would not condone his actions for himself or rank and file employees. (Id. at 71). His assertion, however, is that an emergency situation excused a rule violation and this circumstance justified it. (Id.) Part of O'Neill's rationale is that had he used a skiff it would have been demolished in the rough conditions of the river at the time. (Id. at 68-71). In other words, if the line was going to get to the place it needed to be, someone had to swim it there and he was not going to ask an employee to perform such a dangerous task. (Id. at 70-71). The Court's finding that O'Neill's action caused employees to question his overall judgment supports much of plaintiff's theory in this case. Rather than knowing O'Neill's rationale, if in fact he is telling the truth in his deposition, the employees at the scene simply believed it was just one more chaotic act in an altogether crazy, violent, chaotic day that they wanted no part of, but were being forced to participate in. Of course, that a vice-president of the company was motivated to violate so fundamental a safety rule as this, gives light to the violent nature of the river conditions even prior to the time the hurricane actually hit the defendant's boats and crew which were caused to ride out the treacherous conditions.

22. Every crew member of the M/V Ann Peters except for the captain filled out an accident report following the storm. (Grubb Deposition, pp 89-90).

23. The log for the M/V Ann Peters for Monday, August 29, 2005, indicates that the M/V Anita M was taking "on water from wind swells from Hurricane Katrina." (Exhibit 11).

24. During the storm the crew lounge door buckled and water poured into the lounge area. (Robert Keller Deposition, p. 37-38). Before the storm, the door was not damaged in any way. (Chris Lee Deposition, p. 17). The force of the water burst the door open. (Id. at 16). When the door burst open "[i]t sounded like somebody hit the door with a sledge hammer." (Keller Deposition, p. 38). Despite running the pumps for half an hour, the crew failed to make headway against the incoming water. Two crew members observed a foot of water in the crew lounge, despite the operation of two two-inch pumps. (Richard Johnson Deposition, pp. 34-35; Robert Keller Deposition, p. 38). Robert Keller testified that he held the door shut until he could get some help. (Keller Deposition, p. 37). Finally, someone took a "sludgehammer" and "beat the biggest part of the door back in." (Crockarell Deposition, pp. 88-89; Sandage Deposition, p. 60). Someone shoved a medicine cabinet against the door to keep it from coming open again. (Grubb deposition, pp. 73-74; Richard Johnson Deposition, pp. 35-36). One of the lounge windows was also blown out and had to be replaced with plywood. (Johnson Deposition, p. 36).

25. Because of the water coming through the door, defendant's employees had to deploy pumps. (Richard Johnson Deposition, pp. 34-35; Chris Lee Deposition, p. 17). Crockarell described the frantic pumping in the crew lounge on the main deck, stating, "And we probably pumped her about 30 minutes to gain water, because when we first started them, we wasn't gaining much, but after Lindell, I'm saying it was him, you know, beat them back in pretty close, it's -- you know, we started gaining, then we had to pump out deck crew quarters and all back down through there." (Crockarell Deposition, p 89). Lee characterized this as a "stressful" time. (Lee Deposition, p. 17). Deckhand Lynn White was wearing more than one life jacket and a life ring. (Id. at 19). White expressed concern to Lee about whether or not "he was going to make it." (Id.).

26. Tim Powell was the chief engineer on the M/V Anita M. (Powell Deposition, pp. 5-6). Powell testified that the lounge door blew open and a lounge window "tried to come out and we managed to get it wedged back in there." (Id. at 7). Powell became aware of the problem when "they opened the door and run a pump hose into the engine room so it could get down there to the pumps. I said what in the world is going on there?" (Id. at 8). Powell testified that when the lounge door blew open, it "flooded the lounge." (Id. at 7). This was stressful because "for about three hours we was in a dead run trying to get water out." (Id. at 9). Powell and the assistant engineer, Jeff Chambers, expressed concern to each other about whether they were going to make it through the hurricane. "It was a serious time." (Id. at 16). "Several of us called home and told our families good-bye because we didn't think we would see them again." (Id. at 17). Powell was one of the people who made such a call.

(Id.). Powell was in fear of his life and for the lives of the people who depended on him to do his job, for an extended period of time during the storm. (Id. at 18).

27. Although both boats were grounded, the water was so high during the storm that the crew could not tell that they were aground. (Crockarell Deposition, pp. 72-73). Although the boat was grounded, Webb knew it was still in the water "[b]ecause the watering tanks for the cooling systems are on the bottom of the boat. You get the water below the bottom of the boat, you don't have anywhere to run your air conditioning systems." So the boat still had power but no longer moved. (Tyree Webb Trial Testimony, Day 1, Vol. 1, p. 77). Captain Grubb had to engage the engines "a time or two" to make sure the boat stayed on the bank. (Grubb Deposition, p. 81). During this time, the boats had no maneuverability. (Franklin Deposition, p. 80).

28. The sole witness offered by TECO Barge Line, Inc. to support its theory that the storm was not appropriately perceived as life-threatening was Vogene Crouch, the cook on board the M/V Anita M. Her testimony in this regard was simply a fabrication, an act of perjury, that one can only infer was perpetrated to curry favor with defendant. She is still employed by defendant and has reason to lie on behalf of her employer. Ms. Crouch seemed blissfully unaware that the M/V Anita M had been tossed by hurricane force winds, twenty-six foot waves, spun at least 180 degrees around, and had been in danger of flooding. Her testimony did not square with the other witnesses' observations, or frankly with common sense. The essence of her testimony was that this experience was not much different than another trip on the river in non-hurricane conditions. Her testimony was a blatant lie and the Court is shocked that defendant would even bother to tender such obvious false testimony. Her credibility was no better when it came to her revised memory of the persons discussing a potential lawsuit. Defendant's trial counsel elicited testimony from this witness about plaintiff discussing a future lawsuit. The witness was thoroughly impeached on her testimony about who discussed what about future lawsuits. Regardless, the Court finds that in the midst of this chaotic scene, anger about being forced to ride out a hurricane would abound with banter about exercising one's access to the courts. Who wouldn't be having such a discussion under those circumstances? The Court hardly thinks everyone would be sitting around heaping praise on defendant for the joy ride. The relevant issue is whether one has suffered injury, which a fact finder must decide.

29. The storm surge "took all the barges upriver." (Sandage Deposition, p. 59). "When you get on the other side of the hurricane, the wind changed directions, tide went back out, the surge went back out and here all of the barges come back down the river." (Id.). This was not just those barges that had been in the M/V Anita M's tow, but "[a] lot of other barges." (Id.).

30. Once the M/V Anita M and the M/V Ann Peters broke free from their rigging, the situation became even more chaotic. Barges began coming back down the river after the storm surge subsided. "[E]verything that went north come south. Then -- you know, then you are in that -- them empty barges, you know, could very well hit us." (William Sandage Deposition, p. 56). Barges were everywhere, "going down the river, upside down, sticking straight up." (Richard Johnson Deposition, pp. 61-62). After coming to rest on the other side of the levee, the M/V Anita M was struck by barges coming back down river. (Johnson Deposition, pp. 60-61; Sandage Deposition, pp. 59). All of the barges from upstream were coming downstream. (Johnson Deposition p.63). At least two of the barges damaged the vessel, with a "crushing steel to steel" sound. (Johnson Deposition, p. 61; Sandage Deposition, p. 60 ("I think three times" barges struck the M/V Anita M)). The M/V Ann Peters and the M/V Anita M struck each other until the water level started falling. (Johnson Deposition, p. 62). This motion was like a see-saw; when one would go up, the other would go down, scraping against each other each cycle. (Sandage Deposition, p. 56-57). This occurred constantly through the course of the storm. (Id.). "The port corner of the rudder room was crushed in from where an empty landed on us. Had a nick out of the second deck -- or what do you call it, the --around the side, the rail around the side had a nick out of it where an empty had hit up there on the second deck." (Tim Powell Deposition, p. 7).

31. The hurricane lasted approximately fourteen hours. (Sandage Deposition, p. 65-55).

1. Plaintiff Webb's Experience in Hurricane Katrina

32. Tyree Webb is the plaintiff in this matter. In the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, Webb was the chief engineer on the M/V Ann Peters; there was no assistant engineer, so Webb was the only crew member assigned to the engine room. (Tyree Webb Trial Testimony, Day 1, Vol. 1, p. 64). Webb worked a straight twelve-hour shift, from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., but if something went wrong or needed attention after his watch ended, Webb would take care of it. (Id.). There was no evidence that he had any physical or emotional difficulty doing so or that defendant took umbrage with his work. In August of 2005, the M/V Ann Peters worked as a harbor tug with seven crew members: a captain, pilot, engineer, first mate, second mate, and two deckhands. (Id. at 65). Webb heard that there was going to be a hurricane the week before it actually struck and expected that the boat would evacuate the area. (Id.). Webb noticed that other vessels had left and wondered when his boat would get the order to go north. (Id. at 66).

Webb agreed with William Love's testimony concerning the building of the barge fort. (Id. at 70). The barges were tied off to moorings and the boats were faced up to the barges. (Id. at 71). "Faced up" means that the face lines or cables connect the boat to the barge. (Id.). The barges have deck fittings that are designed to allow the face wires to wrap around and hold them to the boat. (Id.). The face wires run from winches on the boat that pull them tight. (Id.). The face wires are one inch thick steel cables. (Id.).

The cables that are used to wire the barges together are similar construction. (Id. at 72). The two boats were also connected with lines. (Id.). David O'Neill and Lindell Werner came down from the office in Metropolis to Davant late Saturday or early Sunday morning. (Id. at 66). O'Neill called the crew into the galley and told them that they would be staying and to get ready for the hurricane. (Id. at 66-67). Webb began feeling apprehensive when he heard O'Neill's decision. (Id. at 67). His apprehension grew when O'Neill violated an industry safety rule - and common sense - by jumping into the river with a line. (Id. at 68-70). Davant is about 50 river miles south of New Orleans and the river is infested with alligators, snakes, and other dangerous creatures. (Id. at 67). This foolhardy behavior caused Webb's apprehension to increase because O'Neill was the one deciding whether they would exit or stay. (Id. at 70). As events unfolded, Webb's apprehension increased. (Id.).

Around 10:30 or 11:00 p.m., O'Neill ordered the M/V Ann Peters' crew to evacuate and transfer to the M/V Anita M, which again increased Webb's anxiety. (Id. at 72). The M/V Ann Peters' crew went to the lounge and galley area on the M/V Anita M. (Id.). Some crew members like William Love went to the deck locker at times but nobody went outside onto the exterior deck of the vessel to watch the storm. (Id. at 73). Around midnight, the wind had "started to get up and it started to rain." (Id.) "It progressively got worse until the hurricane got there." (Id.). Around 4:00 a.m., the "winds got severely heavy. Tidal surge came in, broke the boat loose from the moorings." (Id. at 73-74). Things were not quiet; Webb could hear the wind and rain and could hear wires snapping. (Id. at 74). Webb could hear and see the wires snapping. (Id.). The tow and the barges eventually broke loose. (Id.) Before the storm started, the boat was facing northbound at approximately mile 54 or 53. (Id. at 75). Webb agreed with Love's testimony concerning the satellite photo that Love had described. (Id.). After the storm, the boats were about a mile up river from their starting point and all the way across the river, which is approximately a mile wide at that point. (Id.). Webb was aware of being in motion after the tow broke up. (Id. at 75-76). He could feel the boat rocking and bumping against the barges. (Id. at 76). Webb realized the boat was no longer moving when it was on the west bank facing south. (Id. at 77). During this time "we got tapped by some barges pretty good." (Id. at 77-78). Webb did not know how many times the M/V Anita M was struck by barges. (Id. at 78). Webb did see "more than a hundred" barges coming back downriver; some of them actually struck the boat. That made Webb feel "pretty scared at the time." (Id.).

At one point during the hurricane, Webb was standing in the doorway between the lounge and the galley when the starboard lounge door broke in. (Id. at 78). When that happened, water "flooded the room immediately." (Id. at 79). The crew had a difficult time keeping up with the water coming into the boat. (Id.). Water continued to pour in and "every time the wave would hit the boat, a bunch would pour in." (Id.). Webb helped the rest of the crew set up two two-inch intake, two-inch outgoing pumps and ran the outgoing hoses overboard. (Id.).

Because of the water coming into the boat, the crew had to drill holes in the upper deck and galley to let them drain because "[t]here wasn't any other way to get the water out." (Id. at 79-80). The engine room has bilge pumps and the purpose of drilling the holes was to get the water down to the bilges where it could be pumped out. (Id. at 80). During this time, Webb was afraid for his life. (Id.). This intense fear lasted until the hurricane was over, around 11:00 a.m. (Id. at 80-81). During this time, Webb feared that he and the other crew members would be dying on the boat. (Id. at 81).

2. Webb and Other Crew Members are Evacuated After the Hurricane

33. Webb filled out an accident report. He explained that many of the pre-printed boxes on the report form did not apply to his situation. (Id. at 82-83). Webb did fill out the box labeled "Description" by saying "Possible stress factor complications (unknown at this time)." (Id. at 83). Webb believed that this description was accurate. (Id.). Both Webb and the captain, Ray Franklin, signed the report. (Id. at 83-84). Eventually, Webb was evacuated by helicopter to Houma, Louisiana, where a crew van was waiting to take him back to Metropolis, Illinois. (Id. at 84). Webb did not choose that destination. (Id. at 85). When he arrived in Metropolis, he was unable to go home right away but instead had to wait for about an hour for a psychiatrist to get there. (Id.) Webb was then instructed to report to a meeting room where the psychiatrist "had us all sit in a semi-circle and started asking us what our story was and what happened to you and things of that nature." (Id.) This only made Webb feel worse. (Id.). Webb was angry because he felt the psychiatrist was "very unprofessional, the way she did. It was like it was entertainment." (Id. at 85-86). During the session, William Love and Webb both got up and walked out. (Id. at 86).

Webb rode home for about an hour and a half to two hours with his wife. (Id. at 86). When he got home, Webb broke down and cried a while and went to bed. (Id.). After his breakdown, Webb felt different than he had before he got on the boat on that trip and decided to see a doctor. (Id. at 86-87). He went to Dr. Lee who gave him Valium and recommended he see a psychiatrist. (Id. at 87). TECO's Employee Assistance Program recommended that Webb see Centerstone Clinic in Clarksville, Tennessee. (Id.). At this time, Dr. McGhee was working at Centerstone and undertook to care for Webb. (Id. at 88).

34. After considering the pleadings, including defendant's admission of liability, and all of the evidence, including the facts found above, the Court finds that defendant TECO Barge Line, Inc. was negligent in failing to evacuate the crews of the M/V Ann Peters and the M/V Anita M. The Court also finds that the M/V Ann Peters and the M/V Anita M were unseaworthy in that they were not reasonably fit to withstand the hurricane to which defendant chose to expose them. The Court finds that the hurricane posed a very real threat to the lives of the crew members, including plaintiff, whom defendant ordered to remain at Mile 55 on the Mississippi River. The Court further finds that had defendant ordered the M/V Ann Peters and the M/V Anita M to evacuate at the time that defendant's vice-president, O'Neill, departed Metropolis, Illinois for Davant, Louisiana, the vessels would have reached a place of relative safety such that the storm would not have been a life-threatening event. The Court therefore concludes that the decision of defendant TECO Barge Lines, Inc. to require its employees to remain at Mile 55 during Hurricane Katrina was the legal cause and a substantial contributing cause of plaintiff's injuries and damages.

C. Injuries Caused by Defendant's Failure to Evacuate the M/V Ann Peters

35. Tyree Webb was the chief engineer on board the Ann Peters. Before the hurricane, as noted in part in the facts above, plaintiff Webb did not have any physical or mental disability that interfered with his ability to perform his job. (Ray Franklin Deposition, p. 64; Harry Chambers Deposition, pp. 32-33). Captain Franklin testified that during the year that he worked with plaintiff, he had never had any issues with his work, and that, as far as he was concerned, Webb was a good chief engineer. (Ray Franklin Deposition, p. 64).

36. His personnel file (Defendant's Exhibit 19) reflects that he had an excellent work record and had received at least one designation as well as a glowing recommendation from his supervisor, Port Engineer Jim Angill, in a March 2000 letter to the United States Coast Guard. (Defendant's Exhibit 19). There is no evidence in the record of any disciplinary action against Webb by his employer, including any negative reviews, any reprimands, or any warnings. There is no evidence of excessive or unusual absenteeism.

37. In the three full calendar years before Hurricane Katrina, Webb averaged $50,450 in annual earnings. (LeRoy Grossman Deposition, p. 16; and see Plaintiff's Exhibit 66 (plaintiff's tax returns)).

38. Defendant's theory of the case is that plaintiff was not injured at all during the violence and chaos of hurricane Katrina. The evidence they present, including through cross-examination of plaintiff's doctors, is of various pre-existing ailments and issues they traced back as far as plaintiff's childhood. Having thoroughly considered the evidence defendant presented, this Court, as the fact-finder, does not find that plaintiff's current medical condition is neither "nothing" nor the same old things he talked to doctors about in years past. The only facts proven by defendant regarding the plaintiff's past medical history was that plaintiff was a typical human that had a manual labor job who needed that job to pay his bills from month to month. He had aches and pains and worries like everyone else in this country who works a hard job for a living. What is most significant is that he did not miss work and did not have any ...


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