‘Deadliest Catch’ boat’s owners sue show over deckhand’s botched diagnosis

Nick Mavar Jr. medevac
“Deadliest Catch” F/V Northwestern deckhand Nick Mavar Jr. is medevaced from Dutch Harbor to Anchorage, as seen in a 2021 episode of the show. (Screen capture from Discovery UK YouTube channel)

The owners of a fishing boat featured in “Deadliest Catch” are suing the reality TV show’s producers after one of their deckhands claimed he did not get adequate medical care, resulting in serious complications.

The lawsuit was filed by the F/V Northwestern’s owners Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Alaska. It follows the deckhand’s own lawsuit, filed against the boat owners in Washington court in December.

That deckhand, Nick Mavar Jr., was a longtime cast member on the Discovery Channel show. His attorneys say that during a December 2020 voyage he suffered a rupture in his appendix, which contained a cancerous tumor he wasn’t aware of at the time.  

Mavar’s attorneys fault the Northwestern’s owners for failing to have Mavar quickly and competently examined, and for failing to have a medical plan in place for treating crew members during the pandemic. 

“The delay in competent and adequate examination, testing, and diagnosis caused (Mavar’s) appendix to rupture resulting in horrendous and chronic infections, surgeries, and cancer treatment that would not have occurred had the appendix been removed prior to rupture,” attorneys wrote.

Mavar is seeking $1 million in damages from F/V Northwestern’s owners.

Washington state records show that the vessel is owned by Hansen Enterprises, Inc. of Washington, which lists three members of the Hansen family – including skipper Sig Hansen – as governors. 

In their lawsuit last week, the owners’ attorneys argue that “Deadliest Catch” producers, Original Productions, Inc., and the show’s medical provider, Trifecta Solutions, LLC, should be on the hook to pay any sort of damages to Mavar, as well as the owners’ attorneys’ fees.

According to the owners’ attorneys, Original created COVID protocols for the filming of the show, and the boat’s crew had to comply with them.

“These COVID protocols limited the exposure of the F/V Northwestern crewmembers to people who were not associated with the television show,” the owners’ attorneys wrote. 

They claim a resident medic, subcontracted from Trifecta by the producers, examined Mavar for abdominal pain on “multiple occasions.” After a Dutch Harbor medic’s diagnosis of appendicitis, Mavar suffered a massive infection and spent a month in the hospital for cancer treatment and abdominal surgery.

“(Mavar) suffered and may continue to suffer in the future, great amounts of physical pain with resultant physical disability, disfigurement and mental suffering,” attorneys wrote.

A request for comment from Original Productions wasn’t immediately answered Tuesday.

At least part of Mavar’s medical issue aired on “Deadliest Catch.” A YouTube clip posted by Discovery from a 2021 episode of the show shows Mavar complaining of rib pain to the Dutch Harbor medic during a port visit.

“If I push on it I feel pain – I feel pain,” Mavar tells the medic as he lies in his bunk.

That medic tells Hansen that Mavar’s white blood cell count has tripled from normal levels and he needs to be medevaced to Anchorage.

“You definitely need to go to the clinic, like, right now,” the medic tells Mavar.

Hansen soon agrees and must find a replacement crewman. The clip shows the Northwestern going to sea as Mavar’s LifeMed flight takes off from the local airport, with Hansen sounding the boat’s horn for his departing deckhand.

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cklint@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Chris here.

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