Towboat crew member awarded $4.3m judgment

3/22/2012

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. - Tyree Webb, a former engineer on the towboat Anita M, has been awarded $4.3 million in his lawsuit against TECO Barge Line, which he successfully argued forced him to stay on the Anita M during Hurricane Katrina, "saddling him with post-traumatic stress syndrome that upended his life," according to press reports, including those of the AP. 

The M/V Anita M is a 170-foot inland river towboat built by St. Louis Ship. It appears to have been renamed the Abby S, and then the Laurie Becnel, now owned by United Maritime Group.

In quoting from US District Judge David Herndon's ruling, the AP reports that "the vessel’s workers were on the Mississippi, about 55 miles south of New Orleans, as Katrina barreled in. They expected to be directed upriver to safety but were stunned by TECO’s orders to ride it out. The company’s testimony suggested it was unconvinced Katrina would be a threat to life."

TECO Barge Line, at the time, was owned by TECO Energy, but it was sold in 2007 to an investment group as part of TECO Transport. It has since been renamed United Barge Line LLC. At the time of Katrina, TECO Barge Line was "a full-service river barge line transporting dry bulk and break products on the inland waterway system. With more than 750 barges, TECO Barge Line ranks among the leading river barge companies serving the Mississippi, Illinois and Ohio rivers for domestic and export markets."

TECO did bring a witness, Vogene Crouch, to testify against Webb, who has become suicidal and is now afraid of the water as a result of his experience. Crouch was serving as the Anita M's cook at the time of the incident, and testified that Katrina's effects were not life-threatening, but Judge Herndon wrote in his decision that, "Her testimony did not square with other witnesses’ observations, or frankly with common sense ... Her testimony was a blatant lie and the court is shocked that the defendant would even bother to tender such obvious false testimony."

3/25/2012 10:07:29 AM CHARLES RESTIVO says:
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Some one give me the name of that lawyer. After 35 years at sea and how many storms I can't count or remember, I should get a billion $$$$.

CJR
3/22/2012 5:23:57 PM JIM HUFFT says:
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Hurrincan Katrina hit the east side of the Miss. River south of Port Sulphur and directly at Buras, LA
3/22/2012 4:05:57 PM BERNARD PENA says:
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The boat wound up "beached" less than 100 feet from the crown of the levee, completely out of the water. Do not comment about what the boat and crew did to survive Katrina unless you know what you are talking about.
3/22/2012 3:33:37 PM Mark Mather says:
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I hope they appeal this decision. That plaintiff wouldn't have made $1 million in a lifetime of sailing! Most people aren't cut out to sail, and he is one of them!

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