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Diver sues over electric shock from faulty wiring at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

By PAT GROSSMITH
New Hampshire Union Leader

August 04. 2016 5:19PM



CONCORD - A Portsmouth man is seeking $500,000 in damages from the U.S. government after he says he suffered an electric shock from faulty wiring while cleaning the bottom of a sailboat docked at a pier at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

According to the lawsuit, on Aug. 25, 2015, Joel St. Jean, who is in his mid-20s, was working for a commercial diving company cleaning the underside of a privately owned 36-foot Catalina sailboat in the Piscataqua River.

He is suing because his injury is believed to be the result of faulty wiring at the marina owned and maintained by the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

The sailboat was attached to shore electrical power supplied by the marina. St. Jean says the government negligently failed to maintain, inspect, and/or otherwise keep a safe electrical supply for vessels in the marina and, as a result of its negligence, he was shocked.

After the incident, he said, he was found floating in the water unconscious with the scuba regulator in his mouth. As a result of his injury, he experienced prolonged headaches, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, photophobia (extreme sensitivity to light), nausea, vertigo, dizziness, visual disturbances, fatigue and other permanent and protracted symptoms.

In addition to his physical injuries, he says he incurred lost wages, suffered physical and emotional pain and incurred substantial medical expenses, all through no fault of his own.

The government denies each allegation in St. Jean's suit. What's more, the government asserts that if St. Jean was injured - which it is not admitting to - those injuries could be the result of his own negligence, either in whole or in part.

St. Jean filed the suit U.S. District Court in August 2015. It is set to go to mediation this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrea K. Johnstone

Attorney John E. Durkin of Portsmouth, who represents St. Jean, said the case is being brought against the government under admiralty law because it involves a boat on navigable waters.

The government is represented by Malinda R. Lawrence, trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. The New Hampshire Union Leader was unable to reach her for comment.

pgrossmith@unionleader.com


Courts Concord Portsmouth


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