Our Florida law firm handles a wide variety of personal injury matters, including those involving admiralty and maritime law, boating injuries, oil rig injuries, brain injuries, workers' compensation, and wrongful death. Firm founder John W. Merting is a highly regarded trial attorney who is committed to helping clients recover the compensation they need and deserve.
At the Law Offices of John W. Merting, P.A., we have obtained successful out of court settlements and jury verdicts for blue water sailors, offshore oil workers, deckhands, fishermen, tugboat and barge crewmen, longshore workers, and others who have been injured in maritime accidents. We represent clients in both state and federal court.
• $5.4 million, plus nearly $2 million in maintenance and cure, for an 18-year old deckhand who fell from a mega-yacht in Rhode Island while cleaning the vessel from an unprotected area, sustaining traumatic and anoxic brain injury.
• In excess of $3 million, plus a $300,000 lien waiver, for mild traumatic brain injury of a worker who fell down defective stairs on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana.
• $2,375,000 for a passenger on a personal watercraft involved in a collision between two rental watercraft, sustaining traumatic and anoxic brain injuries. We sued the watercraft owners/livery. Case settled during mediation utilizing a trust and lifetime annuity which will provide enhanced lifetime financial security.
• $1.45 million settlement for the death of a crewman lost at sea. Parties and circumstances of loss are subject to a confidentiality agreement. Claim was paid without litigation.
• $1+ million settlement of a Florida state workers' compensation case for a female construction worker who was determined to be permanently totally disabled approximately 15 years earlier.
• $875,000.00 settlement at mediation for a salvage diver who suffered a career-ending injury when he fell on his first morning of work overseas.
• $800,000.00 settlement one week before trial in Singapore for injuries to a barge foreman, sustained off the coast of India, when an anchor buoy exploded while being pressure tested. Injuries required bilateral shoulder surgeries. Settlement was in addition to payment of medical expenses and wage loss for one year, obtained through Singapore workers' compensation law.
• $600,000.00 settlement for inland fixed platform employee injured in a collision between two work boats on the Mississippi River. Suit was brought against vessel owners, and employers of the operators. Injuries were to shoulder and back with no surgeries. In addition to the settlement, there was $150,00.00 in workers' compensation lien waivers, and payment of $30,000.00 in attorney's fees to longshore counsel.
• $600,000.00 settlement for back injuries to the crewman on a barge in Venezuela waters struck by a defectively rigged gangway. Case litigated in Houston, Texas, and seaman was able to return to offshore employment.
• $500,000.00 of maintenance and cure benefits from a seaman's employer because the seaman's cancer "first manifested itself while he was in the service of the ship" — even though the cancer was totally unrelated to the crewman's employment!
• $312,000.00 settlement for a young lady who sustained a leg puncture wound and stomach laceration, and two other passengers were also injured, when a privately owned small pleasure craft struck a dock at high speed at night. The case settled at mediation by dividing all available insurance among the three injured passengers.
• $250,000 for a driver of a disabled 18-wheeler struck from behind by another 18-wheeler, whose driver was trying to retrieve his cell phone from the floor of the cab.
$800,000.00 settlement one week before trial in Singapore for injuries to a barge foreman, sustained off the coast of India, when an anchor buoy exploded while being pressure tested. Injuries required bilateral shoulder surgeries. Settlement was in addition to payment of medical expenses and wage loss for one year, obtained through Singapore workers' compensation law.
We were successful in obtaining a judgment against the employer assigning 80 percent liability to the employer. Court rules in Singapore require either live courtroom appearances by all witnesses, or appearance by real time videoconferencing. Due to the 12 hour time difference, and the travel time and expense, it would have been practically impossible to get our medical and life care experts to either testify live or appear by live videoconferencing. Additionally, Singapore legal precedents do not allow more than minimal amounts of $100,000.00 or less for pain and suffering, and not more than two to three years maximum of future medical expense or future wage loss. Due to the client's needs for funds and the above factors, the case settled for $800,000.00 US Dollars, which included pre-judgment interest of $75,000.00. The parent company of the defendant filded bankruptcy shortly after the settlement was paid.
2. Petition of RFJ International Corporation for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability, Civil and Maritime, U.S. District Court - Rhode Island - Case No. 01-588-WS:
An 18-year old deckhand on a corporate owned mega-Yacht fell from the after-deck striking his head on a concrete fuel dock, and then was under water for 7-10 minutes. The injuries included traumatic and anoxic brain injuries with quadriplegia, spasticity and blindness. The case was intensively litigated and included several full blown evidentiary hearings and an appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals (1 step below the U.S. Supreme Court) on several critical maintenance and care issues. We were successful on every issue. The case ultimately settled, after two full days of mediation, for $5.4 million, in addition to almost $2 million of maintenance and cure obtained previously. A special needs trust was established which preserves the seaman's entitlement to state and federal government financial and medical benefits for life.
3. John Doe and Family v. XYZ, Inc., U.S. District Court Eastern District of Louisiana:
Suit was brought in Louisiana by an offshore oil field worker against the owner and operator of an offshore oil facility for damages resulting from a mild brain injury sustained when he fell down some allegedly defective stairs on the facility. After extensive litigation and two separate mediation sessions, the case was successfully settled for $3.4 million. Our efforts also resulted in the worker retaining the vast majority of his Social Security Disability benefits and his long-term disability income insurance benefits.
A large consortium claim settlement was also achieved for the injured worker's wife, which is rarely possibly in maritime cases. This was a fixed platform in Louisiana state waters, so the consortium claim was brought under Louisian premises liability law.
4. AB v. CD Boat Livery:
Personal watercraft passenger sued personal watercraft owner/livery for traumatic/anoxic brain injury arising from a collision between two rental watercraft. Case settled for $2,375,000.00 after two days of mediation, utilizing a trust and lifetime annuity which will provide greatly enhanced lifetime financial security for the young foreign national who was working temporarily in the United States. Counsel was able to successfully avoid the defense's reliance on a comprehensive release signed by the plaintiff due to the boat livery's violation of certain state statutes and personal watercraft vendor regulations. The two operators and the other passenger were all foreign nationals and could not be located by the time we were retained. My personal inspection of the rental operation established that, due to the resort choosing to locate the operation immediately adjacent to a large marina and in a no wake area, it was physically impossible for the vendor to comply with the state regulations requiring both a demonstration ride by an instructor and a check ride by the renter in sight of the instructor. Additionally, a rental PWC instructor is mandated by these state regulations to have taken an instructor course and successfully passed a state adopted test. In this instance, the instructor did not meet these requirements until the day after the collision!
Thus, we were able to persuade the national claims manager of the insurer that the Pennsylvania Rule would apply, and that the release would be held void as against public policy. As a passenger, we argued that she was incapable of comparative negligence.
My client appeared by Skype video conferencingfrom her home in Europe where she had been Medivaced after she was stable, following being in a two week coma. Her sister and brother-in-law (both foreign nationals) appeared live at the mediation.
We produced numerous posters, instructional videos, sample test questionnaires for prospective PWC renters, a laminated waterproof instruction card for instructors to use - all provided free of charge by the PWC manufacturer. The vendor chose to use none of these! This was doubly significant, because the instructor did not speak the native language of the renters.
After the insurer had responded with their final offer, we were able to get them to pay an additional $250,000.00 to repay my client's parents who had depleted both of their retirement accounts to pay for advanced care not otherwise available from their home country's national health coverage. We accomplished this by agreeing to waive our fee on this amount and insuring that we disbursed those funds directly to her parents.
5. Seaman's widow v. Employer X:
$1.45 million settlement for the death of a crewman lost at sea, paid by his employer. Parties and circumstances of loss are subject to a confidentiality agreement. Claim was paid without litigation. Due to government involvement, we were told we were required to sign a lengthy nondisclosure agreement which would have crippled our efforts to fully represent the family. I believed this nondisclosure agreement was unethical and refused to sign. I even sought advice from The Florida Bar which basically told me to consult with other attorneys and that I had to decide for myself. I belong to two national plaintiff attorney Listserves: one is the admiralty section of the American Association for Justice, and the other, a by invitation only group of about 250 attorneys who handle catastrophic injury cases. I received only one reply to those postings — that by an attorney friend of a maritime attorney who told me he had to sign a Government nondisclosure agreement in order to be appointed as counsel for an enemy combatant in Guantanamo. I thought there was a dramatic difference between his representing an enemy terrorist and my representing a U.S. citizen lost at sea doing something that was beneficial for his country.
The result was quite extraordinary since the decedent was the captain of the small vessel, and he navigated directly into a typhoon — there was potentially a huge comparative negligence issue under the Jones Act. There were no survivors and no witnesses.
6. Debra Peters v. Coastal Materials of Alabama and FCCI Insurance Group:
Florida workers' compensation case settled for in excess of $1 million. Mr. Merting obtained a decision awarding a female construction worker permanent total disability benefits for a low back injury more than 15 years earlier. Full permanent total disability compensation and all medical was paid for these years. The settlement provides a large up-front cash payment sufficient to buy a handicapped accessible home, pay off all debts, and leave a substantial cash cushion. Additionally, the settlement provides a substantial monthly annuity for her life. Two additional annuities were utilized to fund a Medicare Set-Aside and pay for the professional administration of same. The client's personal annuity and the Medicare Set-Aside annuity are guaranteed for a substantial number of years so that, in the event of claimant's premature death, the insurance company will not receive a windfall. Had the case not been settled, Florida law would have provided zero benefits to the claimant's family since she obviously did not die from her original injury within five years. The settlement assures the claimant lifetime financial security and independence from the workers' compensation insurer, and assures her family significant financial benefits in the event of claimant's premature death.
7. Paul McGee vs. Titan Maritime, LLC:
$875,000.00 settlement at mediation, shortly after filing suit to preserve the statute of limitations, for a salvage diver who suffered a career-ending injury when he fell on his first morning of work overseas. The supervisor ordered the diver to board a severely listing wrecked vessel, whose deck was coated with oil. The vessel had no lifelines, harnesses, oil absorbent pads, or any other reasonably necessary equipment. All necessary equipment was located on the mother ship, a short distance away.
The diver fell on the slippery deck injuring his hip, ultimately requiring a total hip replacement which was subject to a later revision.
Settlement was new money in addition to $130,000.00 of previously paid wage advancements. It was essentially pre-suit because it was filed only to protect the statute.
8. Kenny Fortner v. Horizon Offshore:
Barge foreman working off the coast of Venezuela on a vessel/barge that was, without a conflict, undermanned and short of crew at the time of this incident, and for a number of weeks preceding this incident. There had been numerous complaints by the plaintiff and others as to the short-handedness without any results, and therefore, all of the crewmen were working 16-18-20 hours per day due to the crew shortage. The vessel/barge was secured with multiple anchors, and did not move a great deal as a result. There was a much smaller cargo barge positioned adjacent to the vessel/barge from which cargo was being moved for the dockside construction project. As is frequently the case, "time is money" and the crew was being pressured to offload the cargo as quickly as possible in order to have the barge released for the next trip. A number of Venezuelan nationals were also on the vessels, but due to differences in language and their lack of experience, they did not participate to a large degree in the work that the plaintiff and the other crewmen were obligated to perform. Due to the positioning of the cargo on the vessel/barge, the gangway, which weighed several tons and was in excess of 50 feet in length, could not be properly positioned as designed in its recessed track. Instead, it was jury rigged on top of some permanent handrails along the port side of the vessel/barge. The cargo barge was 6-8 feet higher than the vessel/barge, and being much smaller and not anchored at all corners, was much more susceptible to the 4-6 and an occasional 8 foot sea swells, which were running toward the stern of the barges. This caused the decks of the barges to surge in relation to one another. Due to the short-handed situation, plaintiff was obligated to traverse across the dangerously mispositioned gangway in order to coordinate crane movements of the cargo with the crane operators, supervise the riggers of the loads, and also identify a safe place to land the cargo due to the excessive crowding of materials on the vessel/barge. Notwithstanding the dangerous lack of a safe means of ingress and egress, to and from his assigned work place, the plaintiff was obligated to cross this gangway a number of times earlier on the date of his injury. Upon his return, the differences in surges caused the gangway to snap about 90 degrees on its side suddenly and without warning, and then drop back down and surge again to approximately the same position, throwing him violently about, and ultimately causing the handrail to strike him in the area of his upper back and shoulders with such violence that if actually lanuched his hard hat approximately 30 feet to the deck of the vessel/barge.
This case was settled after litigation, at mediation in Houston, Texas, for $600,000.00.
9. Joshua Forsythe v. Metzee, Inc. and William M. Newell:
$290,000.00 settlement one week before trial for teenage passenger on a charter fishing vessel, who sustained a crush amputation of the tip of his dominant index finger.
Insurer declined initial settlement demand for $300,000.00 policy limits. The policy was a cannibalizing policy which reduced by all expenditures for investigation and defense costs.
Discovery established that vessel owner/captain placed both engines in gear after the vessel had stopped at its dock, while the passenger was attempting to cleat the mooring line, as he had been directed to do by the captain. The captain did not have the plaintiff in sight, and gave no warning.
The settlement included a significant cash contribution by the vessel owner/captain at settlement, and a significant cash payment within one year secured by a preferred ship's mortgage. An additional $5,000.00 of MedPay coverage was obtained prior to settlement.
10. Alan Richardson and Carolyn Richardson, husband and wife. vs. Refrigerated Express, L.C., a Florida Limited Liability Company, et al., Circuit Court of Santa Rosa County, Florida:
The case was referred to our firm by out-of-state counsel, and it settled at mediation for $250,000.00. We were also able to settle the client's out-of-state workers' comp lien of over $150,000 for $10,000, and leave his medical coverage open, which eliminated the necessity for a Medicare Set-Aside. We waived our fee on the workers' comp case, and also assisted the client in obtaining his Social Security Disability benefits.
We accept referrals, act as co-counsel, and serve clients nationwide in serious injury matters involving personal injury and maritime law.
Contact our lawyer to speak with him at no charge about any matter involving federal or maritime law. Our attorney has a worldwide practice, representing clients nationwide and throughout the world who have been injured at sea. Our Gulf Breeze area law firm serves mariners throughout the Gulf Coast in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, the Mississippi River and the Intracoastal Waterway.