EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (CN) – A federal judge ripped into an employer in awarding $4.3 million to a tugboat crewman who claimed he suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome from being forced to stay on his vessel during Hurricane Katrina.
Tyree Webb, 53, of Clarksville, Tenn., was an engineer on the Anita M. towboat during the disaster. Crew members testified that they feared for their lives during Katrina and even called home to say goodbye.
In ruling against TECO Barge Line of Metropolis, Ill., U.S. District Judge David Herndon noted that the towboat was not designed to protect crew members from a hurricane’s force.
The judge had some stern words for TECO.
“The sole witness offered by TECO Barge Line, Inc. to support its theory that the storm was not appropriately perceived as life-threatening was Vogene Crouch, the cook on board the M/V Anita M,” Herndon wrote. “Her testimony in this regard was simply a fabrication, an act of perjury, that one can only infer was perpetrated to curry favor with defendant. She is still employed by defendant and has reason to lie on behalf of her employer. Ms. Crouch seemed blissfully unaware that the M/V Anita M had been tossed by hurricane force winds, twenty-six foot waves, spun at least 180 degrees around, and had been in danger of flooding. Her testimony did not square with the other witnesses’ observations, or frankly with common sense. The essence of her testimony was that this experience was not much different than another trip on the river in non-hurricane conditions. Her testimony was a blatant lie and the court is shocked that defendant would even bother to tender such obvious false testimony.”