Dec. 22, 2015 – University of Houston Law Center alumnus Tony Buzbee ’97 last week won a $41 million jury verdict for the family of a seaman who died after being bitten by a brown recluse spider aboard ship.
Representing the parents of Jose Flores, Buzbee sought damages and punitive damages from the ship’s operator for negligence as well as claims of unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure benefits under provisions of U.S. General Maritime Law.
Buzbee argued Flores was kept aboard ship for five days without treatment and contracted a severe staph infection, the treatment for which worsened an existing liver condition causing Flores’ death from liver cancer.
“I knew if we were going to make a statement (with the verdict) that we had to spend a lot of time on mental anguish and pain and suffering, trying to articulate that,” he explained. “Try to help people understand how to quantify that. It’s an intangible.”
The jury in Rio Grande City based its award on the negligence claims, but included $20 million for Flores' mental anguish and physical pain and $20 million in punitive damages, as well as more than $1 million in medical expenses.
The company argued the bite did not happen aboard ship or was not apparent and that Flores did not seek medical treatment.