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

1 P&O Cruise Passenger Killed and 9 Others Injured in Bus Collision During Shore Excursion

A British passenger traveling on board the P&O Cruises ship Azura was killed last Wednesday as a result of a collision involving a bus operated by a shore excursion provider in the island of Dominica. Nine other passengers of the twelve passengers traveling on the bus were also injured as a result of the accident. They were treated at local hospitals and most have been discharged since. The cause of the accident is not yet known.

1 P&O Cruise Passenger Killed and 9 Others Injured in Bus Collision During Shore Excursion
A British passenger traveling on board the P&O Cruises ship Azura was killed last Wednesday as a result of a collision involving a bus operated by a shore excursion provider in the island of Dominica. Nine other passengers of the twelve passengers traveling on the bus were also injured as a result of the accident. They were treated at local hospitals and most have been discharged since. The cause of the accident is not yet known.

The Azura ship set sail from Southampton on October 28, 2016 with more than 3,000 passengers on board.

Sources and Photo Credit:

British Cruise Ship Passenger Dies in Bus Crash
, BBC News, November 10, 2016.
Dominica News Online

1 P&O Cruise Passenger Killed and 9 Others Injured in Bus Collision During Shore Excursion 1 P&O Cruise Passenger Killed and 9 Others Injured in Bus Collision During Shore Excursion 1 P&O Cruise Passenger Killed and 9 Others Injured in Bus Collision During Shore Excursion 1 P&O Cruise Passenger Killed and 9 Others Injured in Bus Collision During Shore Excursion

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

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

Second Passenger Medevaced Off Carnival Triumph Within 10 Days

The Coast Guard is reporting that it has medevaced an 84-year-old passenger from the Carnival Triumph cruise ship on Wednesday October 5th. The cruise ship sent a request to Coast Guard Sector New Orleans to medevac a passenger suffering heart attack-like symptoms.

Second Passenger Medevaced Off Carnival Triumph Within 10 DaysThe Coast Guard is reporting that it has medevaced an 84-year-old passenger from the Carnival Triumph cruise ship on Wednesday October 5th. The cruise ship sent a request to Coast Guard Sector New Orleans to medevac a passenger suffering heart attack-like symptoms.

A MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans, who hoisted the passenger while the ship was approximately 100 miles south of Southwest pass. The aircrew transported the passenger to Air Station New Orleans where a waiting ambulance took him to West Jefferson Medical Center. The man’s condition is unknown at this time.

Built in 1999, the Carnival Triumph can carry 3,143 passengers. The cruise ship is currently sailing scheduled routes from New Orleans. This makes the second time within 10 days the Coast Guard was called to medevac a passenger from the Carnival Triumph. The other case involved a 60-year-old female passenger.

Photo Credit: Coast Guard News

Second Passenger Medevaced Off Carnival Triumph Within 10 Days Second Passenger Medevaced Off Carnival Triumph Within 10 Days Second Passenger Medevaced Off Carnival Triumph Within 10 Days Second Passenger Medevaced Off Carnival Triumph Within 10 Days

Injured Carinval Cruise Passenger Medevaced off Louisiana Coast

The Coast Guard is reporting that it medevaced a 60-year-old woman passenger from the Carnival Triumph cruise ship. Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a call at 8:43 pm on Monday, September 26th, from the Carnival Triumph requesting a medevac of one of its passengers who was injured during the cruise. The request was related to Coast Guard Station Venice who dispatched a 45-foot response boat which met the cruise ship approximately seven miles off the Venice, Louisiana coast at 9:39 p.m. The injured passenger and her husband were transported to emergency medical services at the Venice Coast Guard Station. The couple were then transported by ambulance to Ochsner Medical Center in Kenner. The passenger is listed in stable condition. It is unknown at this time what caused the injury. The Carnival Triumph is currently sailing a Western Caribbean itinerary from New Orleans.

Injured Carinval Cruise Passenger Medevaced off Louisiana CoastThe Coast Guard is reporting that it medevaced a 60-year-old woman passenger from the Carnival Triumph cruise ship. Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a call at 8:43 pm on Monday, September 26th, from the Carnival Triumph requesting a medevac of one of its passengers who was injured during the cruise. The request was related to Coast Guard Station Venice who dispatched a 45-foot response boat which met the cruise ship approximately seven miles off the Venice, Louisiana coast at 9:39 p.m. The injured passenger and her husband were transported to emergency medical services at the Venice Coast Guard Station. The couple were then transported by ambulance to Ochsner Medical Center in Kenner. The passenger is listed in stable condition. It is unknown at this time what caused the injury. The Carnival Triumph is currently sailing a Western Caribbean itinerary from New Orleans.

Injured Carinval Cruise Passenger Medevaced off Louisiana Coast Injured Carinval Cruise Passenger Medevaced off Louisiana Coast Injured Carinval Cruise Passenger Medevaced off Louisiana Coast Injured Carinval Cruise Passenger Medevaced off Louisiana Coast

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

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Killed and Four Injured in Safety Drill Accident

One crew member was killed and four others were injured-two critically, after a lifeboat became detached and fell from the fifth deck of the Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas during a security drill while the ship was docked in Marseille, France. The lifeboat is estimated to have fallen from a height of approximately 32 feet with the five men inside of it. The man killed is reportedly a 42-year-old man from the Philippines.

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Killed and Four Injured in Safety Drill AccidentOne crew member was killed and four others were injured-two critically, after a lifeboat became detached and fell from the fifth deck of the Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas during a security drill while the ship was docked in Marseille, France. The lifeboat is estimated to have fallen from a height of approximately 32 feet with the five men inside of it. The man killed is reportedly a 42-year-old man from the Philippines over 40 singles cruise.

The Harmony of the Seas is the world‘s largest cruise ship at 1,188 feet from bow to stern it is longer than the Eiffel Tower. The ship is cruising the Mediterranean and is expected to continue its sail to Naples, Italy.

Earlier this year, we reported on a similar accident that occurred aboard the Norwegian Breakaway, which resulted in the death of a crew member and injuries to three other crew members.

Sources and Photo Credit:

Harmony of the Seas Death: One Person Killed and Four Injured after Accident on World’s Biggest Cruise Liner, Independent, September 13, 2016.
Royal Caribbean Crew Member Dies and Four Others Injured During Lifeboat Drill on Harmony of the Seas
, Royal Caribbean Blog, September 13, 2016.
Harmony of the Seas accident: One Dead, Four hurt in Lifeboat Crash, BBC News, September 13, 2016.

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Killed and Four Injured in Safety Drill Accident Royal Caribbean Crew Member Killed and Four Injured in Safety Drill Accident Royal Caribbean Crew Member Killed and Four Injured in Safety Drill Accident Royal Caribbean Crew Member Killed and Four Injured in Safety Drill Accident

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Killed and Four Injured in Safety Drill Accident

One crew member was killed and four others were injured-two critically, after a lifeboat became detached and fell from the fifth deck of the Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas during a security drill while the ship was docked in Marseille, France. The lifeboat is estimated to have fallen from a height of approximately 32 feet with the five men inside of it. The man killed is reportedly a 42-year-old man from the Philippines.

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Killed and Four Injured in Safety Drill AccidentOne crew member was killed and four others were injured-two critically, after a lifeboat became detached and fell from the fifth deck of the Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas during a security drill while the ship was docked in Marseille, France. The lifeboat is estimated to have fallen from a height of approximately 32 feet with the five men inside of it. The man killed is reportedly a 42-year-old man from the Philippines.

The Harmony of the Seas is the world‘s largest cruise ship at 1,188 feet from bow to stern it is longer than the Eiffel Tower. The ship is cruising the Mediterranean and is expected to continue its sail to Naples, Italy.

Earlier this year, we reported on a similar accident that occurred aboard the Norwegian Breakaway, which resulted in the death of a crew member and injuries to three other crew members.

Sources and Photo Credit:

Harmony of the Seas Death: One Person Killed and Four Injured after Accident on World’s Biggest Cruise Liner, Independent, September 13, 2016.
Royal Caribbean Crew Member Dies and Four Others Injured During Lifeboat Drill on Harmony of the Seas
, Royal Caribbean Blog, September 13, 2016.
Harmony of the Seas accident: One Dead, Four hurt in Lifeboat Crash, BBC News, September 13, 2016.

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Killed and Four Injured in Safety Drill Accident Royal Caribbean Crew Member Killed and Four Injured in Safety Drill Accident Royal Caribbean Crew Member Killed and Four Injured in Safety Drill Accident Royal Caribbean Crew Member Killed and Four Injured in Safety Drill Accident

Royal Caribbean Crew Member Killed and Four Injured in Safety Drill Accident