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.

 

 

Miami Boat Accident Sends One to the Hospital Miami Boat Accident Sends One to the Hospital Miami Boat Accident Sends One to the Hospital Miami Boat Accident Sends One to the Hospital

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.

Vero Beach Florida Teen Found Dead After Being Thrown Off Boat Vero Beach Florida Teen Found Dead After Being Thrown Off Boat Vero Beach Florida Teen Found Dead After Being Thrown Off Boat Vero Beach Florida Teen Found Dead After Being Thrown Off Boat

Woman Seriously Injured in Boating Crash in Black Creek Clay County Florida

A woman was seriously injured when the Boston Whaler boat she was a passenger in hit an overhanging tree branch at approximately 30 mph while traveling around a bend in Black Creek, a 13-mile-long tributary of the St. Johns River in Clay County, Florida. Three other passengers of the boat also sustained injuries, one of them requiring hospitalization. The two passengers that were hospitalized were in the back of the boat at the time of the crash. According to the operator of the boat, Charles Spiegel, upon coming around the bend he encountered an overhanging tree branch and he “cut it hard and broadsided the tree branch.” Both passengers transported to the hospital were alert when they were being taken to Orange Park Medical Center. However, they were reportedly in a lot of pain. The Clay County Sheriff’s Department is assisting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in investigating this accident.

Woman Seriously Injured in Boating Crash in Black Creek Clay County FloridaA woman was seriously injured when the Boston Whaler boat she was a passenger in hit an overhanging tree branch at approximately 30 mph while traveling around a bend in Black Creek, a 13-mile-long tributary of the St. Johns River in Clay County, Florida. Three other passengers of the boat also sustained injuries, one of them requiring hospitalization. The two passengers that were hospitalized were in the back of the boat at the time of the crash. According to the operator of the boat, Charles Spiegel, upon coming around the bend he encountered an overhanging tree branch and he “cut it hard and broadsided the tree branch.” Both passengers transported to the hospital were alert when they were being taken to Orange Park Medical Center. However, they were reportedly in a lot of pain. The Clay County Sheriff’s Department is assisting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in investigating this accident.

Black Creek is a winding creek known by locals as a difficult area to navigate with many sharp turns. In 2011, Black Creek was the site of a fatal boat crash that resulted in the death of two teenagers. Reportedly, the operator of the boat left control of the boat to pump the fuel bulb when the boat veered into the north bank and crashed into a tree three feet off the water. The operator of the boat and father of one of the deceased passengers was charged with reckless boating.

Sources:

Man, Woman Injured When Boat Hits Tree on Black Creek, news4jax, November 2, 2016
Father Sentenced to Time Served in Deadly Clay County Boat Accident, Jacksonville news August 30, 2011

Woman Seriously Injured in Boating Crash in Black Creek Clay County Florida Woman Seriously Injured in Boating Crash in Black Creek Clay County Florida Woman Seriously Injured in Boating Crash in Black Creek Clay County Florida Woman Seriously Injured in Boating Crash in Black Creek Clay County Florida

Civil Liablity in the Jose Fernandez Boat Accident Case

It has been a month since Florida Marlins’ pitcher Jose Fernandez and his friends Eduardo Rivero and Emilio Macias lost their lives in a tragic boating accident in Miami Beach. Shortly after the tragedy, law enforcement reported the boat involved in the crash with the north jetty of Government Cut did not belong to Fernandez. It was later confirmed that Fernandez did, in fact, own the vessel. It has been also confirmed that hours before the accident, Fernandez was drinking at American Social, a Miami area restaurant and bar. A toxicology report recently released indicates that Fernandez had a blood alcohol level of 0.147 which is nearly twice Florida’s legal boating limit of 0.08. The same toxicology report concluded that he also cocaine in his system. Though Fernandez was legally intoxicated, it is now being suggested that he was not operating the boat at the time of the accident. This theory is based upon a witness telling law enforcement that he was on the phone with Fernandez near the time the boat struck the jetty.

Civil Liablity in the Jose Fernandez Boat Accident CaseIt has been a month since Florida Marlins’ pitcher Jose Fernandez and his friends Eduardo Rivero and Emilio Macias lost their lives in a tragic boating accident in Miami Beach. Shortly after the tragedy, law enforcement reported the boat involved in the crash with the north jetty of Government Cut did not belong to Fernandez. It was later confirmed that Fernandez did, in fact, own the vessel. It has been also confirmed that hours before the accident, Fernandez was drinking at American Social, a Miami area restaurant and bar. A toxicology report recently released indicates that Fernandez had a blood alcohol level of 0.147 which is nearly twice Florida’s legal boating limit of 0.08. The same toxicology report concluded that he also cocaine in his system. Though Fernandez was legally intoxicated, it is now being suggested that he was not operating the boat at the time of the accident. This theory is based upon a witness telling law enforcement that he was on the phone with Fernandez near the time the boat struck the jetty.

Who is Responsible

Though this the accident occurred on a private boat mere yards from shore, a civil case concerning who is labile will be governed by maritime law. Maritime law is an amalgamation of decisional law dating back to ancient Greece supplemented, at times, by non-conflicting state law. From the facts known to date, there are four potential sources of liability: the boat owner, the boat operator, the alcohol server and the government.

Civil Liablity in the Jose Fernandez Boat Accident Case Civil Liablity in the Jose Fernandez Boat Accident Case Civil Liablity in the Jose Fernandez Boat Accident Case Civil Liablity in the Jose Fernandez Boat Accident Case

Boating Accident in Indian River Lagoon Sends Four People to the Hospital

Four people were hospitalized late Thursday night after the boat they were traveling in struck a sand bar at channel marker 85 in the Indian River Lagoon around 11:20 p.m. One person was treated at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Florida. The other three individuals were treated at Sebastian river Medical Center in Sebastian, Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is still investigating the cause of the crash. The identities and condition of the people involved have not been released. We will continue to monitor and update this story as more information is known.

Boating Accident in Indian River Lagoon Sends Four People to the HospitalFour people were hospitalized late Thursday night after the boat they were traveling in struck a sand bar at channel marker 85 in the Indian River Lagoon around 11:20 p.m. One person was treated at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Florida. The other three individuals were treated at Sebastian river Medical Center in Sebastian, Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is still investigating the cause of the crash. The identities and condition of the people involved have not been released. We will continue to monitor and update this story as more information is known.

Just last month, Florida Marlins superstar pitcher Jose Fernandez and two of his friends, Eddy Rivero and Emilio Macias died when the boat owned by Fernandez, crashed into a jetty sometime before 3:00 a.m. These accidents highlight the danger of boating after dark. Most boats are not equipped with headlights thus increasing the likelihood of crashing with a fixed object. Additionally, most channel markers and other navigational aids have no lighting attached. Boaters intending to travel at night are recommended to have their own lights, such as handheld marine-grade spotlights.

Sources and Photo Credit:

Alex Boerner/Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers St. Lucie County.


Details Emerge on Jose Fernandez’s Last Night
, USA Today, September 27, 2016.

Miami Tragedy: Boating After Dark is a Different World, TCPalm, September 29, 2016.

Four Injured in Indian River County Boating Accident Late Thursday, TCPalm, October 21, 2016.

Boating Accident in Indian River Lagoon Sends Four People to the Hospital Boating Accident in Indian River Lagoon Sends Four People to the Hospital Boating Accident in Indian River Lagoon Sends Four People to the Hospital Boating Accident in Indian River Lagoon Sends Four People to the Hospital

Key West Diver Run Over by Charter Fishing Boat

A diver was severally injured when a charter fishing boat ran him over. The incident occurred off the White Street Fishing Pier in Key West last Saturday, October 8th. Witnesses stated that the injured diver, along with another man, were displaying the legally mandated divers-down flags when the charter boat struck him at a high rate of speed. It appears that a propeller from the boat nearly severed diver’s left foot. The captain of the fishing boat retrieved the injured diver from the water and reported the incident to law enforcement. The captain was directed to return to shore where Key West Fire Rescue responded. The injured diver was taken to an area hospital. There have been no reports on the victim’s condition at the time of this post.

A diver was severally injured when a charter fishing boat ran him over. The incident occurred off the White Street Fishing Pier in Key West last Saturday, October 8th. Witnesses stated that the injured diver, along with another man, were displaying the legally mandated divers-down flags when the charter boat struck him at a high rate of speed. It appears that a propeller from the boat nearly severed diver’s left foot. The captain of the fishing boat retrieved the injured diver from the water and reported the incident to law enforcement. The captain was directed to return to shore where Key West Fire Rescue responded. The injured diver was taken to an area hospital. There have been no reports on the victim’s condition at the time of this post.

Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office investigate such incidents. Florida law requires all divers without boats display a red divers-down symbol with a horizontal white strip that is a minimum of 12 inches by 12 inches which could take the form of a flag of buoy. Florida law also requires boat operators make a reasonable effort to maintain a distance of 300 feet of a divers-down flag or buoy on open waters.

In the civil law context, a boat operator who violates a safety statute, like Florida’s diver statutes, is presumed at fault and liable for the victim’s damages. The boat operator can only rebut this presumption by showing that the safety statute violation could not have been a cause of the accident. It is not likely that the boat operator can overcome this presumption as if a distance of 300 feet was maintained, the diver would not have been run over.

Below is a video report by The Blue Paper.

Key West Diver Run Over by Charter Fishing Boat Key West Diver Run Over by Charter Fishing Boat Key West Diver Run Over by Charter Fishing Boat Key West Diver Run Over by Charter Fishing Boat

Biscayne Bay boating accident sends one person to the hospital

A boating accident in south Biscayne Bay sends one boater to the hospital. It is being reported that at 2:20 p.m. on Sunday, September 26th, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue crews were called to a boating accident scene where one person was significantly injured. The incident happened in Biscayne Bay National Park near Elliot Key to the east and approximately 5 miles from Turkey Point to the west. On scene, Fire Rescue assessed the injured person as a trauma alert and called for a medical evacuation air team. Fire Rescue assisted with hoisting the victim onto a helicopter. The boater was taken to a local trauma center and is currently listed in critical condition. Though the accident involved only one boat, it is unknown if the vessel struck an object or ran aground. A local salvage company towed the vessel back to Black Point Marina. Other passengers were taken off by other boats in the area before Fire Rescue arrived. None of the other passengers were hurt. This accident occurred within in 12 hours of the boating fatality of Florida Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez.

Biscayne Bay boating accident sends one person to the hospitalIn a boating accident in southern Biscayne Bay a straw hat to the hospital. It was reported that afternoon at 2:20 on Sunday, September 26, Miami-Dade County fire rescue workers were called to the boating accident scene apparently wounded one person. Events near Elliott Key Biscayne Bay National Park from the East about 5 miles from the Turkey to the West. At the scene, fire rescue assessment as a trauma alert the injured man and called for medical evacuation air team. Fire and rescue helicopters on the secondary hoisting victims. Boatman was taken to a local emergency Center and is currently listed in critical condition. Despite the accident involved only one ship, it is unknown if the attack objects or stuck. Coastal vessels at a local salvage company towed back to black. Other passengers were taken by the other vessels in the area, the fire until help arrives. No other passengers were injured. The accident in Florida Marlins pitcher Jose · Fernandez’s boat deadliest occurred within 12 hours.

Photo: Miami-Dade County fire rescue

Florida Marlins pitcher Jose · Fernandez and two others die in boating accident

The Florida Marlins’ pitcher Jose Fernandez is one of three people who died Sunday morning in a boating accident off Miami Beach. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue responded to a report of a 30-foot boat that crashed into the north jetty of the Government Cut inlet. Fire Rescue Chief, Todd Garofalo, stated that an “initial search [found] three victims – two on top of the water, one underneath the boat…” The identities of the other victims have not been released. Details on how the boat ended up on the jetty and who was the operator are unknown at this time. Government Cut is the main waterway connecting the Port of Miami to the Atlantic Ocean. Fernandez was a 2011 first-round draft pick of the Marlins and was selected to play in the National League All-Star game in his rookie season.

Florida Marlins pitcher Jose · Fernandez and two others die in boating accidentFlorida Marlins pitcher Jose · Fernandez was in Miami Beach on Sunday morning in a boating accident near one of the three men. Miami-Dade fire and rescue respond to hit Government cuts the entrance North Pier 30-foot ship reports. Fire and rescue Chief, tuodejia said, “initial search [find] three-two of the victims to the surface a bottom……” do not publish the identity of the other victims. At this time, the boat at the end of the dock and who was the operator’s details are unknown. Cut is the main waterway of Miami port is connected to the Atlantic Ocean. Fernandez is a 2011 first-round draft pick of the Marlins and was selected to the National League all star game in his rookie season.

Florida Law Applies to Boat Accident Personal Injury Claims in Most Miami-Dade County Canals

The Federal Eleventh Circuit recently found that a Miami-Dade County canal popular for boating and fishing is not navigable thereby precluding claims based upon Federal admiralty jurisdiction. Since Federal admiralty jurisdiction does not exist, Florida state law, not Federal maritime law applies to boating accidents that occur in many South Florida canals.

Florida Law Applies to Boat Accident Personal Injury Claims in Most Miami-Dade County CanalsThe Federal Eleventh Circuit recently found that a Miami-Dade County canal popular for boating and fishing is not navigable thereby precluding claims based upon Federal admiralty jurisdiction. Since Federal admiralty jurisdiction does not exist, Florida state law, not Federal maritime law applies to boating accidents that occur in many South Florida canals.

The Accident

A privately owned pleasure boat was operating in a waterway known as the Coral Park Canal. While the boat was traveling south, it encountered a bridge with low clearance at the intersection of SW 94th Avenue and SW 8th Street. The operator and four passengers lowered their heads while the vessel passed under the bridge. As the boat emerged from the other side of the bridge, one passenger raised his head and hit a water pipe owned by Miami-Dade County that extended over the canal. The force of the impact ejected the passenger from the boat and into the canal causing a significant personal injury.

Florida Law Applies to Boat Accident Personal Injury Claims in Most Miami-Dade County Canals Florida Law Applies to Boat Accident Personal Injury Claims in Most Miami-Dade County Canals Florida Law Applies to Boat Accident Personal Injury Claims in Most Miami-Dade County Canals Florida Law Applies to Boat Accident Personal Injury Claims in Most Miami-Dade County Canals