Florida has a thriving maritime industry, and many people work on ships that dock in ports throughout the state. While people who suffer injuries on such ships can pursue damages from the responsible parties, the Limitation of Liability Act (Act) typically dictates how their claims will be handled and can limit what compensation they can recover. Recently, a Florida court discussed the Act and its implications in a case in which a man working on a ship suffered catastrophic injuries. If you were hurt while working on a ship, it is in your best interest to speak to a skillful Florida personal injury attorney about your rights.
The History of the Case
It is alleged that the yachting company hired the plaintiff’s employer each year for the repair and maintenance of its yacht. The plaintiff, a deckhand, was working on the yacht when the ball of a crane broke free from its chain and struck the yacht’s handrails, which then flew into the plaintiff. He ultimately suffered the loss of his right foot and a traumatic brain injury due to the impact.
It is reported that the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the yachting company to recover compensation for his injuries. The defendant yachting company sought an injunction limiting the plaintiff’s damages under the Act. The trial court lifted the injunction, and the defendant yachting company appealed.
The Limitation of Liability Act
The Act provides, generally, that a shipowner’s liability will not exceed the value of the ship and its pending freight for certain claims, including those that arise out of bodily injuries. The Act operates by limiting a shipowner’s vicarious liability for the negligence of its water-borne employees. The Act also grants federal courts the sole jurisdiction to determine whether the limitation applies. In other words, the injured party generally has the right to choose its remedies, while the shipowner has the right to seek to limit its liability in federal court. Practically speaking, this means that a district court will stay all related claims that are pending in any other forum.
In some instances, though, a district court can stay or dismiss the limitation and lift the injunction in proceedings in other courts. For example, if the amount an injured party seeks cannot exceed the value of the ship and its freight, the injured party can litigate in another forum. Further, the single claimant exception, which provides that if there is only one claimant, he can choose the forum by filing a stipulation that protects the shipowners’ rights to have an admiralty court adjudicate its claim to limited liability.
In the subject case, the court found that the stipulation entered into by the plaintiff ensured that the defendant yachting company’s liability would not exceed the limit. Thus, it affirmed the district court ruling.
Confer with a Knowledgeable Florida Attorney
Accidents on ships often cause catastrophic injuries that result in lifelong impairments. If you were hurt on a ship, you might be owed damages, and you should confer with an attorney about your potential claims. The knowledgeable personal injury attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing any compensation you may be owed from the parties responsible for your harm. You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at 800-283-7442 to schedule a consultation.