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Injured bay constable blames Oyster Bay Town

A bay constable has filed notice of intent to sue the Town of Oyster Bay for injuries he claims were caused by being assigned to an unsafe patrol boat.

The notice of claim -- the first step in suing a municipality -- was filed with the town Friday by the attorney for part-time Bay Constable Christopher Briggs of Oyster Bay hamlet. It states that he "was injured because the deck of the vessel was unreasonably slippery, the vessel lacked handholds and safety rails and was unseaworthy."

Oyster Bay town spokesman James Moriarity would only say, "The town received the notice of claim and is reviewing it."

Briggs started working for the town as a bay constable in 2009. On Jan. 19 he was assigned to patrol boat No. 7, which the town says is a 1994 Boston Whaler 22-foot dual-console skiff powered by a 250-horsepower Evinrude outboard engine.

Briggs' attorney, Timothy Schweitzer of Manhattan, said that on Jan. 19 at 4 p.m., the boat had broken down and was being towed by a Nassau County police boat when Briggs was walking along the side deck, slipped and fell overboard. He was able to grab a rail near the waterline and hold on and was dragged through the water until rescued by a fellow crew member, Schweitzer said.

Briggs tore his labrum, a type of cartilage in the shoulder joint, according to the filing.

The notice cites the Jones Act, which allows seamen to sue their employer for negligence, and the General Maritime Law, which requires the owner to provide a seaworthy vessel.

The town "has a duty to provide him a safe place to work and a seaworthy vessel," Schweitzer said. "Our understanding is that the vessel Mr. Briggs was assigned to was almost 20 years old and not fit for its intended purpose."

Schweitzer said Briggs will need surgery because of the injury.

James Mercante, a maritime attorney from Long Beach, said, "It's not unusual to see crew members of any type . . . when injured in the line of duty to bring an action against their employer and the vessel owner under maritime law."

Bay constables are part of the Oyster Bay Public Safety Department, and patrol the waters along the north and south shores of the town.

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