ENSCO offshore settles Jones Act lawsuit brought by rig hand

Skate on the ENSCO 8501 jack-up rig where John Ferguson hurt his kneeJohn is the definition of a hard worker: a true pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of guy. He went to work at the age of 16 to provide for his family after his mom got sick, and he's never stopped working. From construction, painting, and home building to working his way up the ladder in the offshore industry, he can do it all.

At the beginning of 2012, John started working for ENSCO Offshore as a rig hand. He had over a decade of offshore experience under his belt, having worked for two offshore companies previously. In June 2012, he was working on the ENSCO 8501 jack-up rig when a shackle, covered in drilling mud, slipped from his hand and hit his knee. He reported the injury, and did everything by the book, trusting ENSCO to take care of him properly.

When he returned to shore, he saw an orthopedic surgeon who recommended he have an arthroscopic surgery to repair the damage to his knee. He called ENSCO to tell them he needed surgery, and they sent an adjuster from RL Judge to get a statement from him that day. 

When rig curve bonuses affect rig crew's health

He was off for one hitch to have the surgery and to recover, but he went right back to work. His surgeon had given him a 100% release back to work and his knee felt great. He kept working on the 8501 and always worked within the rules. In August 2013, a deck plate moved as he put his weight on it, he slipped, and it hit his knee. He'd been given the heads up that any incident reports would affect the rig's curve bonus, so he didn't have a formal incident report filed. He worked light duty until his shift was over. 

He was fired for supposedly missing a crew change the following month, even though John claimed he'd called his supervisor about his car breaking down. Down but not out, John got a new job right away at a car dealership. His knee kept bugging him though, and standing and walking for long stretches of time wasn't helping it feel any better.

In October 2013, he finally broke down and went to the doctor about his knee. He hadn't tripped, fallen, twisted, or injured his knee in any way since it had been hit by the deck plate on the 8501 in August. He realized that if he needed another surgery, he'd be looking at some hefty medical bills.

Down but never out

He'd originally contacted our firm after the first knee injury, fearing that ENSCO wasn't going to follow the Jones Act and treat him well, but they did. Which meant we stayed in the background in case things went south. John contacted us again after the 2013 injury, at which point he hired us to pursue a Jones Act case against ENSCO.

In our lawsuit, we argued that they needed to pay his maintenance and cure while he recovered from this second injury and that the 8501 was unseaworthy. ENSCO denied the unseaworthiness claim and used the McCorpen Defense. They claimed his 2013 knee pain was due to the 2012 injury and questioned its validity since an incident report had never been filed. They used the lack of an incident report to deny paying him maintenance and cure. 

Vuk and Sean worked up John's case, took depositions of John and his fellow crew members, and inspected the 8501. The case went to mediation in January 2015.

The defense attorneys had hired an investigator to follow John. The investigator recorded video of John moving boxes while he moved apartments, walking, getting in and out of cars, and generally moving without any outward signs of difficulty. They produced this video evidence, claiming it showed John wasn't injured. The defense attorneys also hired a medical expert, who said although John's continuing knee pain was probably from arthritis, depending on the activity, John would be functionally impaired. 

Their medical expert's testimony worked in our favor, and shortly before mediation, the defense attorneys began hinting at wanting to settle John's case. Sean presented John's case at mediation, where all parties were able to agree on a confidential settlement for John. John is now working as a construction supervisor for a national building company, and plans to keep working for a very long time to come. 

Confidential Settlement

Brian Beckcom
Highest Possible 10/10 AVVO ranking. Husband. Father. Fisherman.