Alabama Supreme Court allows lawsuit against Austal to proceed

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The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday said employees of Austal shipyard in Mobile, Ala. may proceed with their lawsuit against their employer.

Last month, Austal employees filed a lawsuit against their employer claiming the company intentionally endangered them by forcing them to use the cutting tool nicknamed the “widow maker” that managers knew to be dangerous. Austal responded by appealing to the state’s Supreme Court to stop the suit.

The suit claims Austal  “made the conscious and deliberate decision to intentionally injure its workmen”  saying the company didn’t want to go to the trouble or expense of finding a safer tool.

In their opinion, the justices said this was hard to believe, but that they could not rule out the possibility of it being true.

“That allegation — that a company would deliberately injure multiple specific employees — is so shocking that it invites skepticism,” read the opinion.”Nevertheless, our standard of review does not permit this Court to consider the plausibility of the allegations… The plaintiffs are entitled to at least limited discovery on the issue whether their claims are subject to the exclusivity provision of the LHWCA. Thus, Austal has not shown a clear legal right to a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal.”

At least 53 Austal workers have been injured by the “widow maker,” losing fingers and suffering deep gashes on their faces, necks and arms, according to injury logs dated between January 2011 – March 2015, which were obtained by The Center for Investigative Reporting.

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