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Last updateTue, 10 Dec 2019 12am







    Monday, December 9, 2019-3:42:15P.M.






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US court issues protective order in seaman’s lawsuit

THE federal court has entered a stipulated protective order in the lawsuit filed by a seaman against a maritime prepositioning vessel owned by the U.S. Navy.

District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona issued the protective order in response to the parties’ request as they anticipate the exchange of confidential information.

The order stated that “any party or non-party may designate as ‘confidential’ (by stamping the relevant page or other otherwise set forth herein) any document or response to discovery which that party or non-party considers in good faith to contain information involving trade secrets, or confidential business or financial information.

Any information disclosed during a deposition or in response to written discovery could also be designated as confidential by indicating it, the order stated.

Except without the prior written consent of the parties or order from the court, confidential information cannot be disclosed to any person, the order added.

The court said it may modify the protective order in the interest of justice or for public policy reasons.

Kenneth Lockhart, who is represented by attorney William M. Fitzgerald, sued the U.S. government for negligence under the Jones Act, for unseaworthiness, and for maintenance and cure.

Lockhart demands awards for damages and jury trial.

He said he sustained injuries while working on a maritime prepositioning vessel, the USNS Montford Point, which is operated by Ocean Shipholdings Inc. and owned by the U.S. Navy.

Lockhart’s lawsuit stated that on Oct. 17, 2016, he was working below deck with and under the direct supervision of the second engineer. The task at hand was to move a palletized tool storage cabinet from one position below deck to another where it would be stowed for sea.

Lockhart said instead of using a pallet jack or fork lift, the second engineer directed him and another crewmember to slide the loaded palate across the deck.

While doing so, he added, the pallet came in contact with an obstruction on deck causing the loaded palate to tilt toward Lockhart, temporarily pinning him against a railing and causing injuries to himself.

After a period of disability during which he received medical care ashore, Lockhart said he returned to the vessel as a member of the crew and was assigned duties aboard the vessel which required him to perform heavy lifting that aggravated the injuries he sustained on Oct. 17, 2016, resulting in a second period of disability and medical treatment ashore.

The lawsuit stated that as a direct result of the defendants’ negligence, Lockhart continues to receive medical care and treatment.

In response to the complaint, the U.S. government said the District Court for the NMI has no jurisdiction, and the lawsuit fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

According to the U.S. government, if Lockhart sustained injuries, they were “caused in whole or in part by plaintiff’s own negligence, fault and actions and not by the defendant or its officers, agents, servants, employees, vessels, or others.”

Moreover, Lockhart’s complaint and action “solely allege matters which are subject to the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers for which the United States has not waived sovereign immunity and consented to be sued,” the U.S. government said, adding that the lawsuit is time-barred.

Sean Frink of Marianas Legal Strategy Group LLC, and U.S. Department of Justice torts branch, civil division attorneys Joseph H. Hunt, Michael Underhill and Vickey L. Quinn are representing the USNS Montford Point in the lawsuit.