In November of 2012, Shannon Adamson suffered life-threatening injuries when the passenger gangway she was standing on collapsed. She fell 18-feet and suffered a shattered pelvis and sacrum, fractures in her lower back, loss of sensation in her right leg, a broken ankle, wrist and ribs, two punctured lungs, a lacerated liver, and a traumatic brain injury. Adamson required extensive surgery after this horrific fall and long painful sessions with a physical therapist just to learn how to walk again.
Court documents revealed that the Port of Bellingham was aware of a defect in the passenger gangway due to a similar accident that occurred in 2008. Engineering safety experts reported that the faulty system could have been resolved, but port authorities failed to install the recommended safety “limit switch”. The device would have cost the port less than $1000.
In the 2016 federal court case, the jury found the Port of Bellingham negligent, and not Adamson or the State of Alaska. Adamson was an employee of the Alaska Marine Highway System, but the court ruled that the defective passenger gangway was owned by the port. On Thursday, April 11th, 2019 the Port of Bellingham lost an appeal when the Washington State Supreme Court agreed with the previous ruling: Commercial landowners are liable for injuries that occur on the property they are responsible for maintaining, even if a tenant has priority to use the property, concluding that the Port of Bellingham must pay a jury’s $16 million verdict to the injured ferry worker.