BATH/PORTLAND – An employee of Bath Iron Works who assisted in the company’s rescue efforts for passengers on the historic schooner Mary E, after it tipped onto its side on the evening of July 30, 2021 on the Kennebec River, filed a lawsuit Dec. 27 against the Maine Maritime Museum claiming that the injuries he suffered were the result of negligence and a vessel that was not seaworthy.
Despite a November 2021 deadline for filing claims set by the U.S. District Court, the man alleged that he was not aware of the deadline to file a claim and had not been immediately apprised of the extent of his injuries until four months after the incident.
The lawsuit was filed by James Dotson, a Maine resident. He is represented by Attorney Joseph M. Orlando, Jr., of Orlando and Associates in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
The attorney representing the Maine Maritime Museum, William Welte, of Camden, filed a counterclaim Jan. 11 to the suit stating that Dotson had not provided the court an adequate basis to support his claims.
Orlando filed a relief from judgement Dec. 27, 2022, on behalf of Dotson in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) 55 and 60 (b).
The suit includes claims that there was an absence of direct notification of the deadline to file claims, a lack of knowledge of legal rights for his client, a lack of legal representation to advise his client, and an “outdated” method of advising potential claimants.
Dotson said that he had only been informed in November 2021 by his physicians that his shoulder injuries “were very severe,” and it was possible he would need surgery. After he was medically cleared of any potential nerve damage, he underwent two surgeries on his shoulder in April 2022 and August 2022. He has since undergone extensive physical therapy and has been out of work since November 2021 due to the severity of his injuries, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that he did not see the articles regarding a previous claim filed by a passenger and notices notifying the public of the filing deadline that were published both online and in print in the Portland Press Herald and the Boothbay Register, according to the lawsuit.
Dotson said that he only gets his news only online and does not read the Portland Press Herald.
In the counterclaim, Welte argued “that he underscores the fact that his hometown has its own newspaper, the Boothbay Register.”
Welte said: “Implicit in his reasoning is that he would have seen the Notice had it appeared in the Boothbay Register. Yet, that local newspaper itself has an online presence and published both there, and in print format, articles about the marine casualty that is the subject of this action.”
“For instance, on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. the headline ‘Schooner passenger files suit against Maine Maritime Museum, disputes claims of immunity filed by nonprofit’ appeared on the front page,” Welte said.
Welte also argued that although Dotson states in his claim that he was injured on July 30, 2021, “he waited almost a full year, until October of 2022, to do the ‘research’ he knew how to do that led to his contacting an attorney.”
A judgment entered by the U.S. District Court on September 26, 2022, found that the Maine Maritime Museum was without negligence, fault or liability regarding the marine casualty which was the subject of this Limitation of Liability Action (LOLA) and “forever exonerated and discharged” from the liability of the capsizing of the Schooner Mary E, according to the counterclaim.
Orlando states in the lawsuit that the general statute of limitations in a personal injury claim in Maine is six years from the date of the incident.
Dotson is seeking punitive damages for what he claims were the direct result of negligence, gross negligence, and unseaworthiness of the vessel, along with suffering severe personal injuries, physical and emotional pain, accumulated medical and hospital bills and other out of pocket expenses.
Reach Sarah Shepherd at email@example.com