Court Finds a Ferryboat Owner Cannot Limit Its Liability in a Fatal Boat Collision

An interesting decision involving the Shipowner’s Limitation of Liability Act was recently handed down in a ferryboat / speed boat collision case.  The accident occurred on February 16, 2013.  The ferryboat, carrying approximately five hundred passengers, was ten minutes into its thirty-minute voyage when it collided with the speed boat.  One man aboard the speed boat died from injuries and another was hospitalized.  No one aboard the ferryboat was hurt.   The captains of both the ferryboat and privately owned speed boat (pictured to the right) claim they did not see each other until it was too late to take corrective action to avoid the collision.  Evidence established that the ferryboat captain was using his mobile phone immediately prior to the accident.  The decedent’s estate and the injured victim claim that the ferryboat captain was distracted by using his phone and was therefore negligent in causing the fatal collision.

Court Finds a Ferryboat Owner Cannot Limit Its Liability in a Fatal Boat CollisionAn interesting decision involving the Shipowner’s Limitation of Liability Act was recently handed down in a ferryboat / speed boat collision case.  The accident occurred on February 16, 2013.  The ferryboat, carrying approximately five hundred passengers, was ten minutes into its thirty-minute voyage when it collided with the speed boat.  One man aboard the speed boat died from injuries and another was hospitalized.  No one aboard the ferryboat was hurt.   The captains of both the ferryboat and privately owned speed boat (pictured to the right) claim they did not see each other until it was too late to take corrective action to avoid the collision.  Evidence established that the ferryboat captain was using his mobile phone immediately prior to the accident.  The decedent’s estate and the injured victim claim that the ferryboat captain was distracted by using his phone and was therefore negligent in causing the fatal collision.

A favor tactic of defendants (and their insurance company appointed attorneys) in serious boating accidents is to file what is known as a petition for exoneration from or limitation of liability.  Under a century and a half old federal law, a defendant shipowner is allowed to file a lawsuit asking a federal judge to determine liability and to even limit an injured plaintiff’s recovery to the post lost value of the vessel.  This means that the damages available for plaintiff who is seriously injured could be capped at the value of a severally damaged vessel.  This federal law has been widely criticized by the courts some going as far as stating its, “a holdover from the days when encouraging commerce by sea was considered more important than providing full redress to victims of maritime accidents.”  Though generally not liked by the courts, the Limitation Act is still the law of the land and will be applied under the right circumstances.

In order to limit one’s liability under the federal law, the shipowner must provide that any negligence causing the accident was not within its “privity or knowledge.”  In order words, the shipowner was unaware and could not become aware of the negligent act where a reasonable investigation would have led to the request knowledge.  In this case, the owner of the ferryboat filed a limitation case in federal court arguing that it should be able to limit its liability to the value of the ferryboat at it was unaware the captain’s negligence of using his mobile phone.  The federal court rejected the ferryboat owner’s argument.  It found that there was no company policy that its captain could not use their phones when operating the ferryboats and that it knew that captains carried personal mobile phones while operated the ferries and permitted their use.  Based upon these factual finding, the court denied the ferryboat owner’s petition to limit liability to the vessel’s post loss value.

Court Finds a Ferryboat Owner Cannot Limit Its Liability in a Fatal Boat Collision Court Finds a Ferryboat Owner Cannot Limit Its Liability in a Fatal Boat Collision Court Finds a Ferryboat Owner Cannot Limit Its Liability in a Fatal Boat Collision Court Finds a Ferryboat Owner Cannot Limit Its Liability in a Fatal Boat Collision

Miami Boat Accident Sends One to the Hospital

A boating accident occurred in Miami’s Biscayne Bay between Northeast 87th Street and Northeast Bayshore Drive Christmas night.  Witnesses state that a boat carrying fourteen people flipped over after hitting a wave while trying to enter a canal at the western edge of the bay.  An area resident who witnessed the incident stated that everyone was at the front of the boat.  Other witnesses stated that they did not see any of the boater wearing life jackets.  Another resident, Ron Stamey, attempted to help the group from his kayak.  He was able to get four of the fourteen out of the water.  Ultimately, Miami Fire Rescue responded to the scene.  Unfortunately, a woman was trapped under the boat.  By the time the woman was freed, she did not have a pulse and was not breathing.  The victim, identified as 80-year-old Lidia Tapanes, was transported to North Shore Medical Center.  Her condition is currently unknown.

Miami Boat Accident Sends One to the HospitalA boating accident occurred in Miami’s Biscayne Bay between Northeast 87th Street and Northeast Bayshore Drive Christmas night.  Witnesses state that a boat carrying fourteen people flipped over after hitting a wave while trying to enter a canal at the western edge of the bay.  An area resident who witnessed the incident stated that everyone was at the front of the boat.  Other witnesses stated that they did not see any of the boater wearing life jackets.  Another resident, Ron Stamey, attempted to help the group from his kayak.  He was able to get four of the fourteen out of the water.  Ultimately, Miami Fire Rescue responded to the scene.  Unfortunately, a woman was trapped under the boat.  By the time the woman was freed, she did not have a pulse and was not breathing.  The victim, identified as 80-year-old Lidia Tapanes, was transported to North Shore Medical Center.  Her condition is currently unknown.

 

 

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Body of Missing Jet Skier Found in Blue Lagoon

Monday afternoon, around 3:30 p.m., a man disappeared while jet skiing in the waters of Blue Lagoon in Miami, Florida in the area off the Dolphin expressway east of 57th avenue. It is unknown how the accident occurred but 32-year-old Manuel Aponte was heading back to shore with other riders when his jet ski came to a sudden stop and he flew head first into the water and vanished.  According to witnesses, it was as if he had hit something with his jet ski because the jet ski stopped short and Mr. Aponte flew over it landing head first into the water. Fellow jet ski riders attempted to find Mr. Aponte without success.  Monday evening and Tuesday Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission continued the search for Mr. Aponte’s body until it was recovered at 7:00 a.m. this morning.  The investigation into how the accident occurred is ongoing and will likely continue for weeks.

Body of Missing Jet Skier Found in Blue LagoonMonday afternoon, around 3:30 p.m., a man disappeared while jet skiing in the waters of Blue Lagoon in Miami, Florida in the area off the Dolphin expressway east of 57th avenue. It is unknown how the accident occurred but 32-year-old Manuel Aponte was heading back to shore with other riders when his jet ski came to a sudden stop and he flew head first into the water and vanished.  According to witnesses, it was as if he had hit something with his jet ski because the jet ski stopped short and Mr. Aponte flew over it landing head first into the water. Fellow jet ski riders attempted to find Mr. Aponte without success.  Monday evening and Tuesday Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission continued the search for Mr. Aponte’s body until it was recovered at 7:00 a.m. this morning.  The investigation into how the accident occurred is ongoing and will likely continue for weeks.

Mr. Aponte was a husband and father of a 1-year-old boy. He was born in Cuba and had immigrated to the United States 9 years ago.  We extend our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.

Body of Missing Jet Skier Found in Blue Lagoon Body of Missing Jet Skier Found in Blue Lagoon Body of Missing Jet Skier Found in Blue Lagoon Body of Missing Jet Skier Found in Blue Lagoon

22-Year-Old Passenger Overboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

A 22 year-old male Royal Caribbean passenger on-board the Independence of the Seas was reported as having intentionally jumped off the ship’s twelfth deck in the early morning hours of Thursday, December 22, 2016.  The ship was approximately 33 miles southeast of Key Largo and was heading back to South Florida after a four-night trip.

22-Year-Old Passenger Overboard Royal Caribbean Cruise ShipA 22 year-old male Royal Caribbean passenger on-board the Independence of the Seas was reported as having intentionally jumped off the ship’s twelfth deck in the early morning hours of Thursday, December 22, 2016.  The ship was approximately 33 miles southeast of Key Largo and was heading back to South Florida after a four-night trip.

The ship contacted the U.S. Coast Guard which took over the search of the man by air and sea.  After a 38-hour search for the missing man, the Coast Guard suspended the search Friday afternoon.

Just a day after the 22-year-old man was reported missing, news sources reported a 74-year-old British woman on-board the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner was missing and presumed overboard. The ship had left New York Thursday morning and was en route to St. Martin in the Caribbean.  The woman was reported missing in the early hours of Friday morning when the ship was around 100 miles south east of Atlantic City in New Jersey.  The search for the woman was called off Friday evening.

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Vero Beach Florida Teen Found Dead After Being Thrown Off Boat

Jimmy Graves, a 15-year-old boy who attended Vero Beach High School, died after being thrown off his friend’s boat into the Indian River Lagoon.  The incident is being investigated by Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission who stated the operator, a 14-year-old boy, have a boating license.

Vero Beach Florida Teen Found Dead After Being Thrown Off BoatJimmy Graves, a 15-year-old boy who attended Vero Beach High School, died after being thrown off his friend’s boat into the Indian River Lagoon.  The incident is being investigated by Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission who stated the operator, a 14-year-old boy, have a boating license.

The boating accident occurred around 11 a.m. on December 4th.  It is being reported that Graves was thrown into the river when the boat hit a wave while towing another person on either a wake board or skis.  He was not wearing a personal flotation device and did not come to the surface.  Authorities are investigating whether Graves hit the propeller of the outboard motor when he fell into the water.  Shortly after the incident, a search began and tragically concluded hours later when Graves’ body was found by a St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office dive team near the Alma Lee Loy Bridge.  A candlelight vigil was held on December 5th at Memorial Island Park in Riverside Park.

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Passenger Overboard Asian Based Cruise Ship

A 60-year-old Singaporean male passenger on-board the SuperStar Gemini cruise ship is missing after falling overboard near Babi Besar Island, located off the Malaysian south-east coast.  Mr. Wuan Poh Fatt was traveling from Singapore to Penang with five others.  According to on-board closed-circuit camera footage, Mr. Wuan fell overboard on Sunday, November 27, 2016 at 11:05 p.m. However, it was not discovered that he was missing until the next day when he failed to respond to announcements.  After a headcount confirmed he was missing, the ship’s Captain contacted Malaysian authorities who began a search of the area. According to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, search and rescue operations are ongoing.

Passenger Overboard Asian Based Cruise ShipA 60-year-old Singaporean male passenger on-board the SuperStar Gemini cruise ship is missing after falling overboard near Babi Besar Island, located off the Malaysian south-east coast.  Mr. Wuan Poh Fatt was traveling from Singapore to Penang with five others.  According to on-board closed-circuit camera footage, Mr. Wuan fell overboard on Sunday, November 27, 2016 at 11:05 p.m. However, it was not discovered that he was missing until the next day when he failed to respond to announcements.  After a headcount confirmed he was missing, the ship’s Captain contacted Malaysian authorities who began a search of the area. According to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, search and rescue operations are ongoing.

The SuperStar Gemini is a 1,750 passenger cruise ship operated by Star Cruises, an Asian based cruise line.  In October 2015, reports surfaced of a 30-year-old Indian national man who disappeared from the SuperStar Gemini while traveling in the Strait of Malacca. The man was traveling with his extended family and they too did not realize he was missing until the next day.  The cruise line claimed the man had committed suicide but the family strongly disputed that allegation instead suggesting he had been the victim of foul play due to a fight he had with one of the ship’s officers.

On average there are 20-30 overboard incidents each year.  Although technology exits to alert cruise ships of a passengers falling overboard, not all cruise lines make use of the technology.  Additionally, despite heavily promoting alcohol use, cruise ships often have minimal security personnel guarding the ship.

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