World-Class Sailor Awarded $1.5 Million For Virgin Islands Sailing Mishap
CHARLOTTE AMALIE – A federal judge has awarded an America’s Cup level sailor from Rhode Island $1.46 million for injuries he sustained disembarking a racing yacht at the direction of his captain during rough seas in the Virgin Islands.
U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell Jr. on Thursday found that Moneypenny Holdings LLC, the Delaware corporation that owns the yacht, S/V Vesper, was negligent by failing to have proper safety procedures in place when its crew was asked to jump from the yacht into a smaller boat in turbulent waters in 2011.
One of the crew members, Kenneth Nevor, then 35, was permanently injured, his right bicep torn from his arm, effectively ending his professional sailing career. McConnell awarded Nevor $710,458 for loss of earnings and $750,000 for pain and suffering.
Nevor, who began sailing at age 8 and moved to Newport, Rhode Island at 18 to pursue it professionally, was an elite sailor, who competed in the Volvo around-the-world ocean race and other high level regattas worldwide.
“It’s kind of a tragedy. That was his life,” said his lawyer, Vincent Morgera. Nevor no longer has the “power, strength or stamina to be top flight sailor” – his life’s passion, Morgera said.
McConnell’s verdict followed a four-day bench trial in September in which testimony showed that Nevor was nearing the height of his career, when he became a member of Moneypenny’s Vesper sailing team in the spring of 2011. The Vesper was a 52-foot state-of-the-art yacht that was assisted by Odd Job, a 35-foot support vessel.
The Vesper had won a race in St. Thomas and was headed to another regatta in St. Barts that March 28. Before leaving St. Thomas, Captain Jeffrey Price opted not to have the crew report to Customs and instead collected their passports and remained behind to deal with Customs. Customs, however, did not clear the crew, requiring members to appear in person in St. Thomas.
The Odd Job was sent to get the Vesper crew to take them back to Customs. The two boats encountered each other in the Sir Francis Drake Channel, open waters east of St. Thomas and St. John.
Winds were building at the time to 8-12 knots with choppy waters.
The crew did not tie the boats together or venture to calmer waters. Instead the crew had to jump from Vesper to Odd Job, which sat lower on the water. The boats separated as Nevor jumped, causing him to slip and grab the lifeline before falling into Odd Job. His right bicep tore from the bone.
The crew returned to St. Thomas and cleared Customs. Nevor asked to sit out the St. Barts race, but his superiors decided he was needed given the crew’s recent victory. Nevor complied and sailed two practice days and one race day before Moneypenny removed him due to his injury.
In May 2011, Nevor underwent surgery to repair the bicep tendon tear. The tendon was manually pulled into place and reattached to the bone. A doctor concluded in January 2012 that Nevor was unable to work as a crewmember and that his condition was not expected to improve, the ruling says.
McConnell concluded that Moneypenny, whose principal is James R. Swartz, was negligent by failing to maintain an adequate crew at the time of the transfer and in failing to move to calm waters or tie the boats together. He faulted Moneypenny for not providing proper safety training. McConnell said that Nevor was in line to earn up to $160,000 in 2011 alone.
In the ruling, McConnell rejected Moneypenny’s arguments that Nevor himself was negligent as an experienced sailor in failing to safely maneuver between the vessels. Moneypenney’s Boston lawyer Kirby Aarsheim didn’t return a phone call placed to his Boston office Friday.