Latvian Shipping faces $1.5 million lawsuit over sailor’s death in Texas

The widow of a sailor wants the Latvian Shipping Co., owner of a Liberian-registered cargo ship, to pay at least USD 1.58 million for what she claims was the wrongful death of her husband two years ago while the vessel was docked at Corpus Christi, Texas.

Lawyers for Larisa Gerasimenko of Rīga last year filed suit in U.S. federal court arguing the defendants are liable for breach of contract, wrongful death, negligence and gross negligence. Her husband, 51-year-old Vasilijs Gerasimenko, died Aug. 27, 2008, from hyperthermia caused by working in the hot engine room of the ship, according to the civil complaint.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit, filed in September 2009 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, are the Latvian Shipping Co. (Latvijas Kuģniecība), LSC Shipmanagement Ltd., and the Cape Wind Trading Co.

According to the lawsuit, Liberia-based Cape Wind is the registered owner of the oil and chemical tanker ship M/T Indra. LSC Shipmanagement is the manager of the vessel, while Latvian Shipping is the group owner of the Indra. Gerasimenko began working for Cape Wind in July 2007.

Latvian Shipping, Cape Wind and LSC Shipmanagement want the court to dismiss the lawsuit. Their U.S.-based attorney, as well as the attorneys for Larisa Gerasimenko, did not respond to several requests for comment. Neither did Latvian Shipping. However, details of the case are revealed in court documents.

The Indra arrived at Corpus Christi on Aug. 25, 2008, and the crew began work on repairing the ship’s engine. Gerasimenko, an engineer, was required to work in the engine room for nearly a day and a half with little rest, according to complaint. The temperature in the engine room was measured to be as high as 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit).

On the morning of Aug. 27, less than two hours after finishing work, Gerasimenko told crewmembers he was not feeling well. An ambulance took him to a hospital, but 45 minutes later he was pronounced dead. An autopsy determined his death was caused by hyperthermia from working in the hot engine room, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit claims Latvian Shipping and the other defendants were negligent, careless and willfully failed to provide safe working conditions for Gerasimenko. Further, Oyster Bay, N.Y.-based attorneys George M. Chalos and Kerri M. D’Ambrosia claim in the lawsuit, the defendants have not provided any compensation to Gerasimenko’s family in Rīga—including paying for funeral expenses.

If Gerasimenko had lived until retirement at age 62, he would have earned USD 976,800 under his contract with the shipping company, according to the complaint.

In his answers to the lawsuit, New York attorney Patrick F. Lennon admits that Gerasimenko worked for Cape Wind, but not for Latvian Shipping or LSC Shipmanagement. While denying they were responsible for the sailor’s death, the defendants also suggest Gerasimenko was himself negligent. The companies also question whether the U.S. federal district court has jurisdiction in the case.

According to a scheduling order for the case, attorneys for both sides are working on interviewing witnesses and other non-experts, with a deadline of Sept. 10. Attorneys are then to tell the court whether they might settle the case or be referred to a mediation program.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *