PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia couple have filed suit against a Netherlands-based shipping company they say was negligent in securing a steel ladder on one of its vessels, which allegedly caused the husband to fall and suffer permanent injuries to his chest and spine in the course of his work duties.

Christopher and Lisa Mullen originally filed suit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in February against Wagenborg Shipping, Wagenborg Shipping North America and Royal Wagenborg Shipping of the Netherlands, but attorneys for Wagenborg noted the international diversity of citizenship between the parties involved and removed the matter U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania this month.

Further, the Mullens cited the Longshoreman’s and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) in their litigation and also declined to limit the amount of their sought damages to less than $75,000, also necessitating the removal of the matter to federal court, the defendants say.

On March 1, 2012, longshoreman Christopher Mullen was employed by J&H Stevedoring at their Pier 80 Complex in Philadelphia and working aboard the M/S Morraborg, a vessel owned by Wagenborg Shipping, which was then moored in the J&H facility.

After unloading cargo from the M/S Morraborg, the suit says Mullen was instructed to take a break by his supervisor. At this time, Mullen allegedly fell from a steel ladder when descending from the second deck to the first deck of the M/S Morraborg, landing on the ship’s first deck.

The suit alleges numerous severe and permanent injuries Mullen sustained in the fall, including “bruises and contusions to the thoracic and lumbar spine, as well as to the chest and ribs, disc bulging, disc protrusion, disc herniation, permanent nerve damage that includes, but is not limited to impingement and other injuries, spinal stenosis, and radiculitis at the areas of C5-C6, L4-L5, L5-S1 and/or T6-T7 [vertebrae], all of which required surgical intervention that included an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion and cervical epidural and intralaminar injections, and other injuries all of which may be permanent in nature.”

Attorneys for Mullen claim he has suffered pain, scarring, disfigurement, loss of well-being, loss of independence and loss of the ability to work in an earning capacity, in addition to incurring numerous costs for hospitalization, medical care and treatment to alleviate his many injuries allegedly sustained in the fall.

Mullen alleges the defendants were negligent in providing a protective coating on the ladder and in not noticing oil and rain water that had accumulated on the ladder, all of which combined to present an inherent “unsafe working condition” that led to his fall aboard the M/S Morraborg.

Lisa Mullen is also listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit due to the incurring of damages related to the loss of her husband’s work services.

The plaintiffs seek an amount in excess of $50,000 in compensatory damages, plus delay damages, interest and costs.

The plaintiffs are represented by Paul V. Bucci, II, Esq. of Laffey, Bucci & Kent, LLP of Philadelphia, plus Joseph P. Moschetta, Esq. and Stephen P. Moschetta, Esq. of Washington, Penn.-based Moschetta Law Firm P.C.

The defendants are represented by Jeffrey S. Moller, Esq. and Lev Kalman of Blank Rome, LLP, of Philadelphia.

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-01976

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