Monterey Personal Injury Attorney, Charles Tony Piccuta, Secures $550,000 Settlement for Client Injured on Charter Fishing Boat

Earlier this month, Charles Tony Piccuta was in Los Angeles, California to attend a mediation in a heavily disputed injury case. The firm’s client was injured while aboard a fishing boat on a chartered fishing trip out of Southern California. The firm filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court-Central District of California. The lawsuit is entitled Roy and Karrie Bakkila v. Channel Island Sportfishing Center (CISCOS), Et Al. (Case # 5:17-CV-02438).

The Allegations Presented By our Personal Injury Attorneys

The lawsuit filed by our personal injury lawyers set forth that the client decided to go on a deep-sea charter fishing trip out of Ventura County, California. The fishing trip was chartered through Channel Island Sportfishing Center (CISCOS) and was advertised as being safe for those with little to no experience. The client had only been deep sea fishing once before and booked the trip believing it would be appropriate for him and his son. The client was booked on a fishing boat named the Seabiscuit. The Seabiscuit was owned by Robert Valney and the Captain on the day the client was injured was John Fuqua, Jr.

Aboard the boat was the client, his son and twenty-two other passengers. The crew included the captain and three deck hands. The crew gave no safety warnings, provided no demonstration on safe-fishing practices and never told the passengers what to do if a fishing line became snared or stuck. The client was never told that safety equipment was necessary or should be worn.  The client was never told to wear safety glasses or that deep sea fishing could result in an eye injury.

As the passengers and the client were fishing, the fishing line of a passenger next to the client became stuck in seaweed. The passenger attempted to dislodge the line by yanking his pole upward and over his shoulder. As the passenger did this, the line came under great tension. No deckhand stopped the passenger or came to his aid to cut the line. After a few minutes, the fishing line snapped or was dislodged. As a result, a metal sinker came back toward the boat at a high velocity. The sinker struck the client directly in his right eye and ruptured his globe. The fishing boat returned to shore where an ambulance waited. The client was rushed to the hospital and eventually lost all vision in his damaged eye.

Our Monterey personal injury attorneys alleged that the captain, the owner and the charter fishing company were all negligent for the following:

*             Failing to keep the client free from injury;

*             Failing to provide reasonable instructions to the passengers to prevent injuries to the client;

*             Failing to provide enough crew to prevent dangerous situations and minimize the potential for injuries to the client;

*             Failing to monitor the passengers and promptly cut the line that was snagged;

*             Failing to monitor the passengers and prevent unsafe fishing activities;

*             Failing to inform passengers, including the Client, of the dangers associated with deep sea fishing;

*             Representing that fishing was safe for those with little to no experience;

*             Failing to instruct passengers, including the Client, to wear safety glasses or other protective equipment;

Our injury lawyers also asserted that the charter company and owner of the boat misrepresented that the fishing trips were safe for those with little to no experience. We alleged that these representations were made with full knowledge that serious injuries and death had occurred in the past and could occur again.

The following link provides a copy of the actual lawsuit our injury attorneys filed in this case. Bakkila v. Ciscos Sportfishing

Bringing the Lawsuit Under Maritime Law

Before filing the lawsuit, our personal injury attorneys discovered that there was a California appellate case that involved the exact same situation. The case is Mosca v. Lichtenwalter, 58 Cal.App.4th 551 (1997). In Mosca, a fisherman (“Mr. Mosca”) was injured on a chartered fishing trip when the line of a second passenger became ensnared and then shot back toward the boat once freed. Like our case, Mr. Mosca was struck in the eye with a metal sinker and blinded. However, Mr. Mosca’s case was thrown out of court and he received nothing.  The court in the Mosca case decided that Mr. Mosca assumed the risk of his eye injury and was not allowed to recover any money as a result. The court held that injury from sinkers and flying hooks is an inherent risk of deep sea fishing.  This meant that if we filed the case in State Court and California law applied, that Mr. Bakkila would likely face the same result and receive nothing for the loss of his eye.

After exhaustive research, our personal injury lawyers decided that the Mosca case may not apply if the case was filed in federal court under admiralty jurisdiction. Under admiralty jurisdiction, maritime law would likely apply instead of California case law. Under general maritime law, the elements to prevail on a negligence claim are like California law—a plaintiff must establish that: a party owed a duty of care and breached that duty causing the plaintiff to be injured and suffer damages as a direct result of that breach. Samuels v. Holland American Line-USA Inc., 656 F.3d 948, 953 (9th Cir. 2011). However, under general maritime law, “assumption of risk” does not apply. Socony-Vacuum Oil Co. v. Smith, 305 US 424 (1939). Assumption of risk was the reason that Mr. Mosca lost his case based upon almost identical circumstances.

The Evidence Revealed by Our Personal Injury Attorneys

                During the lawsuit, our personal injury attorneys took sworn statements from the owners of the charter fishing boat company, the boat owner and the captain. The statements from the boat owner and captain showed that they did not have sufficient safety guidelines in place. The testimony of the captain further revealed that he did not believe he was ultimately responsible for the safety of the passengers on the boat.

The sworn statements given by the owners of the charter fishing company supported that they knew deep sea fishing was dangerous, yet did not provide any warnings to passengers for whom they were chartering trips. During cross-examination, it was admitted that nowhere in the charter fishing company’s marketing materials or in the approximately 100 pages of its website did it discuss safety or warn about the risk for injuries. What follows below are real excerpts from the actual sworn statements given by the owners of the charter fishing company in the case:

Q.    Is it true that there’s no age limit for children to go on these charter fishing trips?

A.    That’s true.

Q.    Okay. Do you feel the need to warn parents and families of the risk of serious injuries that may occur on the charter fishing trips?

A.    I do not.

Q.         –What’s your best estimate of the number of pages in your website?

A.    A hundred? I don’t know. I mean, I have never even—I don’t know.

Q.    Okay.

A.    I don’t—I don’t know.

Q.    Your best estimate would be a hundred or so?

A.     A hundred or so, maybe.

Q.    Okay. And is it also fair to say of those hundred pages, you don’t have a single page discussing safety.

A.    We do not.

Q.    Do you believe that sportfishing on the open ocean has inherent dangers?

A.     I believe it’s possible for things to happen. Yes.

Q.    For injuries to occur; right?

A.    Possibly, yes.

Q.     …one of the theories is you guys have some kind of duty or responsibility to let everyone in the public know, who you’re trying to sell these fishing charters to, that there are dangers and risks associated with them that you know about…Do you believe you have some responsibility there?

A.    I don’t believe so.

Q.    Does CISCOS currently notify passenger about the potential for injuries on the boat, including eye injuries?

A.   No.

Q.   Why not?

MR. BUDDINGH (Defense Attorney):    Objection, irrelevant, beyond the scope of discovery under FRCP Rule 26. I’m going to instruct the witness not to answer.

MR. PICCUTA:    You are aware we have a claim for intentional misrepresentation.

Our personal injury attorneys took additional statements and learned that when the client was injured all crew were absent from the area. The crew were attending to the anchor which was stuck in kelp. This moved all the crew to the front of the boat while all the passengers remained in the back of the boat. This left the passengers unsupervised for more than ten minutes during which time many were fishing. This ultimately resulted in the injury to the client’s eye as no crewmember was present to intervene and stop the other passenger from using a dangerous method in trying to free his line.

Our personal injury attorneys prepared a mediation brief. The mediation brief showcases the damaging evidence and other testimony our attorneys obtained by aggressive cross-examination.  Click the link to read the full mediation brief. Plaintiffs’ Mediation Brief Bakkila v. Ciscos.

Contact Our Personal Injury Attorneys Today For a Free Consultation

If you or someone you know has suffered a serious injury, call the Piccuta Law Group today. One of our skilled personal injury attorneys will provide a free consultation. Our attorneys are experienced in handling difficult and complex injury cases. We will evaluate your case and decided if you can recover money for your injuries. We handle cases on the Monterey Peninsula as well as all of California and Arizona. Our personal injury attorneys handle cases involving: personal injury, car accidents, motorcycle collisions, slip and fall, burn injuries, product defect, pedestrian injuries, dog bites, assaults, negligent security, workplace injuries, trucking accidents, medical malpractice, among others.

About the author: The content on this page was authored and prepared by Monterey personal injury  attorney Charles “Tony” Piccuta. He graduated with honors from Indiana University-Maurer School of Law in Bloomington in 2006 (Ranked Top 35 US News & World Report 2018).  Piccuta took and passed the State bars of Arizona, California, Illinois and Nevada (all on the first try). He is a trial attorney that regularly handles serious personal injury cases and civil rights lawsuits. He has obtained six and seven figure verdicts in both state and federal court. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers for six years straight. He is a member of the Consumer Attorneys of California, American Association for Justice, National Police Accountability Project and Arizona Association of Justice, among other organizations.

Disclaimer: The information on this web site is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Reading and relying upon the content on this page does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, you should contact one of our Monterey personal injury attorneys and discuss your specific case and issues.