Jury awards $3.45 million to family of woman who drowned in a Ballard shipyard

Our news partners, The Seattle Times, report that a federal-court jury has awarded $3.45 million to the family of a 33-year-old woman who drowned while working on a ship in a Ballard shipyard in 2010.

According to The Seattle Times article the jury found ship’s owner, G Shipping Ltd., negligent in the death of Lia Hawkins. Hawkins was working as part of a crew to convert a oceanographic-research vessel into a “luxury floating hotel”, The M/V Sahara.

According to the lawsuit, a gap in the ship’s deck railing resulted in Hawkins being thrown overboard while she was throwing metal waste into a recycling container four decks below. The Seattle Times reported that “Hawkins’ attorney, J.D. Stahl, said G Shipping had done almost nothing to ensure a safe workspace on the ship. The jury returned a verdict on Friday after seven days of testimony, including that of Garosci, who flew in from Venice to appear at the trial.” G Shipping’s lawyer Kevin Beauchamp Smith confirmed that they have plans to appeal the ruling.

Hawkins disappeared while on the job on October 21st 2010 and her body was found in the water near the recycling container the following day. She was still wearing work overalls and gloves which suggested that she had been working inside the ship before falling into the water.

According to The Seattle Times article, “an autopsy determined she drowned. The project manager testified that he had never been instructed by the owners to oversee worker safety and, if asked, would have declined, since he said he had no expertise in the area.”

The jury found G Shipping negligible for Hawkins’ death for maintaining an unsafe workplace. The article reported that “the jury awarded $450,000 to her estate; $500,000 to compensate for her “pre-death pain and suffering”; $2 million for loss of society to her mother, Julie MacLay; and $500,000 for loss of society to her father, John Hawkins.”

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