American Seafoods has been ordered to produce the Northern Hawk for inspection by an injured seaman. The matter arises out of a plate freezer accident on board the Northern Hawk in 2008. American Seafoods had refused to allow the inspection unless the injured seaman first agreed to have his deposition taken. Under Washington Court rules there is no priority given to a vessel owner permitting them to take a deposition prior to responding to discovery requests. In this case, the injured seaman had been seeking to inspect the vessel for many months prior to American Seafoods requesting the crewman’s deposition. The Court ordered American Seafoods to produce the Northern Hawk at a mutually agreeable time prior to the vessel departing for 2010 Pollock season, and that the seaman’s deposition was to be conducted only after the vessel inspection. The Court further held that the seaman and his legal experts did not need to sign liability waivers as a condition of inspecting the vessels. American Seafoods will be required to operate and allow measurement of the plate freezer and the plate freezer controls during the inspection. The seaman will be required to reimburse American Seafoods sixty dollars for operating the plate freezers during the vessel inspection. The seaman was represented by Beard Stacey & Jacobsen. The case is Sanchez v. American Seafoods, King County Cause No. 09-2-12715-8-SEA.
In cases involving serious personal injury, the inspection of the vessel by experts selected by the injured seaman’s lawyers is a critical piece of the process of evidence gathering. It is important that all machinery be operational at the time of the inspection and that the accident site be fully photographed and videotaped. What type of experts conduct the inspection is dependent upon the type of equipment and injuries involved. It is important to document the accident site before changes are made to the ship’s equipment involved in the accident.