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Offshore Worker Says Employers Let Him Bleed After He Was Shot by Nigerian Pirates

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - An offshore oil worker who was shot in the leg by Nigerian pirates claims his bosses left him bleeding in the galley of a ship for several hours because they were afraid the pirates would shoot down a helicopter if they sent it to rescue him.

James Johnson sued PPI Technology Services, PSL Ltd., Transocean, and Afren, in Federal Court.

Johnson worked for PPI and PSL and was assigned to the ship High Island VII, owned and operated by Transocean, when the pirates attacked, on Nov. 8, 2010.

"At approximately 12:30 a.m. on said date, the High Island VII was boarded by Nigerian gunmen in an effort to take hostages from the rig. Upon information and belief the Nigerian gunmen were able to gain access to the High Island VII by using a fixed platform over which the High Island VII had positioned itself. Upon information and belief there were no security measures taken to protect the platform from being boarded by the Nigerian gunmen. Moreover the High Island VII had lowered a stairway down the platform thus allowing the Nigerian gunmen access to the High Island VII rig once they were able to board the platform," according to the complaint.

"Once the rig was boarded by the Nigerian gunmen, plaintiff along with other rig employees retreated to the galley. Within thirty minutes the Nigerian gunmen gained access to the galley at which time they began firing AK47 rifles in the air and on the ground in order to intimidate and frighten plaintiff and the other rig employees. This caused pieces of the ceiling to fall on plaintiff and the other individuals as well as pieces of the floor to fly about striking many of the individuals."

The pirates took Johnson hostage, brought him to his room, demanded money and "then brought plaintiff back to the galley but in route began arguing with each other on a stairwell located between plaintiff's room and the galley. During this argument one of the Nigerian gunmen fired his AK47 causing a bullet to hit plaintiff in the leg.

"Plaintiff sustained severe damage to his right leg which has required multiple surgeries, a muscle transplant, months of hospitalization and continuing therapy as well as future surgical needs."

Johnson says he returned to the galley, where "during the next three and half hours plaintiff remained on the floor in the galley bleeding from the injury to his leg. He had stuffed kitchen towels into the wound in an effort to stop the bleeding. During this time, he also communicated with his drilling superintendent for PPI who worked on land in Nigeria.

"Upon information and belief, the Transocean Offshore Installation Manager delayed allowing an International SOS medical helicopter to come to the rig presumably in an effort to avoid being shot by the Nigerian gunmen. When the International SOS helicopter finally arrived on the rig to remove plaintiff from the rig for emergency medical treatment, the sun was rising."

Johnson claims the defendants "should have known of the possibility of a Nigerian gunmen attack on the rig ... [and] that as early as 2006 similar attacks ha(d) been made on oil rigs off the Nigerian coast."

He claims the gunshot wound has prevented him from working, and that "PPI and PSL have arbitrary [sic] terminated maintenance benefits and improperly refused to pay proper benefits despite a written demand for such."

He seeks compensatory and punitive damages for negligence, under maritime law. He is represented by Timothy Young.

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