The National Sea Grant Law Center


  • Diver Wins Claim for Chemical Burns Suffered During Point Reyes Restoration Project

  • November 29th, 2018 — by Terra Bowling — Category: Torts

  • Last year, a commercial diver hired to assist with a National Park Service project to restore the Point Reyes National Seashore in California filed suit against two companies hired to complete the restoration. Matthew Zugsberger made several claims against the companies, including general maritime law claims for maintenance and cure, negligence, wrongful termination, fraud, and labor claims. In September, a court ruled on the maintenance and cure claims, finding that Zugsberger must be compensated for injuries incurred during the project. (United States ex rel. Zugsberger v. T L Peterson, Inc., No. 4:17-CV-02277-KAW, 2018 WL 4700457 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 28, 2018)).

    Galindo Construction, Zugsberger’s employer, was awarded a subcontract from T.L. Peterson to remove oyster racks from the former Drakes Bay Oyster Company site, which was closed in 2014 following a legal battle over the federal government’s decision not to renew the company’s oyster lease. In order to remove the remnants of the aquaculture operation, Zugsberger and other employees attached chains to the oyster racks that were then removed using a mini excavator on a barge. During the course of the project, Zugsberger experienced burns on his exposed skin. A physician stated that the burns were “[c]linically consistent with chemical burn likely secondary to petrochemical or other toxic exposure.”

    The court ruled that Galindo owed Zugsberger maintenance and cure under maritime common law, since the diver incurred the injury in service of the ship. Generally, “maintenance” covers living expenses during recovery and “cure” covers medical expenses. The company must pay Zugsberger over $33,000 for past maintenance and $53 a day moving forward until he has reached maximum cure for his injuries. The company must pay $32,000 for past medical expenses and the cost of further treatments. The court will consider the remaining claims separately.

  • Terra Bowling
    Senior Research Counsel

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