NOVEMBER 29, 2011 by Ogletree Abbott
Lack Of A “Certain” Cause No Reason To Excuse Jones Act Liability, Proved Jones Act Attorney
The fishing vessel Dell had been on a clamming trip out of Port Smith, South Carolina, when, fully loaded with a catch of Atlantic quahogs, it ran into stormy weather as it headed back to port. As the boat headed in, with its crew of five, the waves washing up on deck weren’t receding off as they usually did. The Dell was taking on water. The Captain (as proved by a Jones Act attorney, later) told the crew members to put on their survival suits, and a few minutes later, ordered them all to abandon ship.
Two crew members who survived had different memories, explained the Jones Act attorney, of last seeing the other three… two of the three lost had probably been in the galley putting on their survival suits, showed the Jones Act attorney . One crew member, with his suit unzipped at the neck, was thrown into the water on the port side One of two survivors told the Jones Act attorney that, once in the water, he heard “other” crew members screaming. The two survivors agreed they had “heard Adam crying for help.” After about ten minutes, the Jones Act attorney said, Adam’s yelling stopped. Another clamming vessel approached and rescued the two crewmen. That ship was unsuccessful as it stayed out at sea, searching fruitlessly for the three missing crewmen, said the Jones Act attorney.
The survivors and the lost crew members’ survivors went to see a Jones Act attorney. The Jones Act attorney filed several claims on their behalf, including under the Jones Act.
Cause Of Sinking Never “Certainly” Known, Said Jones Act Attorney
The cause of the vessel’s sinking was the central dispute in this case, emphasized the Jones Act attorney. A trial court, after hearing the detailed evidence form the Jones Act attorney, agreed that the Dell, as it began its return to port, likely “sank because it was substantially overloaded with clams in cages.” The court agreed with the Jones Act attorney that the vessel’s practice of carrying a heavy (and probably excess) load had become its “common” practice. The vessel owner, however, argued that the Dell sank because the crew members had “negligently failed to close a hatch cover” over one of the five clam tanks, (supposedly) allowing water to build up in the lower level of the vessel, undermining its stability.
A ship owner, noted the Jones Act attorney, has an absolute duty to provide a seaworthy vessel. The Jones Act attorney described how this duty went beyond physical integrity of the vessel, and its equipment…other safety factors, mentioned the Jones Act attorney, include procedures crew members are told to use. In this case, the Jones Act attorney successfully argued, this included the vessel’s capacity to carry a cargo of clams.
Jones Act Attorney Discovered Important Two-Year Old Safety Study
The vessel owner didn’t dispute the Jones Act attorney in suggesting that, if the Dell were “usually” overloaded with clams, then a court could find that the vessel owner breached its duty to the crew. Instead, it argued with the evidence from the Jones Act attorney whether overloading occurred. The owner introduced a stability analysis to prove there’d been no overloading. But the Jones Act attorney proved the study was flawed, since the so-called “downflooding point” was a vent…located six-and-one-half feet above the main deck. The expert also had to admit, under examination from the Jones Act attorney, that if the known 1-inch gaps in the vessel’s hatch covers were used as the downflooding point, the vessel (loaded with 130 full cages of clams) would have failed to pass the stability analysis.
A finding of overloading was also shown by evidence from the Jones Act attorney that the Dell sank on an even keel, which indicated (via an expert asked by the Jones Act attorney) that the water was building up on both sides of the vessel and not just on the port. Finally, the experienced Jones Act attorney had been at work looking at the ship’s history. Extensive maintenance records and logs were discovered and introduced. The Jones Act attorney had also discovered a pivotal study from two years before, which suggested the problems associated with overloading the catch. The appeals court had been convinced by the evidence from the Jones Act attorney, and ruled in support of the Jones Act claim.
The confusion attendant to the sinking or capsizing of a vessel is expected, noted the Jones Act attorney. Only after rescue is there time to try and measure the causes and reasons. In cases where the loss of life has occurred, there’s never really an adequate measure of the losses…but as in this case, there are often important explanations waiting for an experienced Jones Act attorney to help to find. Seeking that help, and gaining the assurance of an experienced Jones Act attorney is often vital.