May 15th, 2017
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Opinions
Koch v. United States
Opinion Date: May 12, 2017
Judge: James L. Dennis
Areas of Law: Admiralty & Maritime Law, Personal Injury
Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against the Government under the third-party liability provision of the Longshore and Harborworkers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. 905(b), after plaintiff was injured while aboard a public vessel owned by the Government and operated by its agents. Plaintiff was inspecting the vessel in connection with his employer's bidding on repair work. The district court concluded that, because the Government's negligent failure to safely illumine the stairwell was the factual and legal cause of plaintiff's accidental fall and its disabling consequences, the Government was fully liable for his resulting harm and disability, even though his preexisting conditions made the consequences of the Government's negligence more severe than they would have been for an ordinary victim. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not apply the wrong legal standard in this case with regard to plaintiff's preexisting medical conditions; the district court did not err in holding that the accident was the sole cause of plaintiff's damages; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by limiting the testimony of the Government's expert witness.
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