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Crew Sues Maersk for|Somali Pirate Attack

MOBILE, Ala. (CN) - Eleven employees claim in court that Maersk Line ignored warnings about Somali pirates and sailed too close to the Somali coast, where pirates kidnapped the crew.

The eleven crewmembers sued Maersk Line and Waterman Steamship Corp., in three complaints in Mobile County Court.

They claim they were aboard the Maersk Alabama, a container vessel owned by Maersk and Waterman, with a crew of 20, when on April 6, 2009, the defendants received warning to sail at least 600 miles off the coast of Somalia, to avoid pirates who were attacking ships in the area.

But the men say Maersk and Waterman ignored the warnings and sent their ship within 250 miles of the Somali coast.

Somali pirates attacked and boarded the Maersk Alabama on April 8, took several crewmembers hostage and caused them permanent physical and emotional injuries, according to the identical complaints.

Four pirates seized the ship 240 nautical miles southeast of the Somali port of Eyl. U.S. troops rescued the captain and several crewmembers on April 12, after a 3-day stand-off.

The men say Maersk and Waterman sacrificed their employees' safety for financial gain.

"Defendants knowingly, intentionally and willfully sent their employees, including plaintiffs, into an area where pirates were attacking merchant vessels," the complaints state. "Despite knowingly exposing their employees and the plaintiffs to such grave danger, defendants failed to take adequate steps to provide appropriate levels of security and safety for their employees, including plaintiffs."

The crewmembers seek compensatory and punitive damages for physical injuries, negligence, wantonness, emotional distress, post traumatic stress disorder and sleep disorders, medical expenses and lost wages.

They are represented by Ross Diamond III with Diamond Fuquay.

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