September 30, 2015 Articles

Vessel Owner Liability and the Limitation of Liability Act

To what extent is an owner liable in a negligent longshoreman's death?

By Philip Brickman

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida recently rendered a memorandum opinion concerning a claim under 33 U.S.C. § 905(b) of the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWC) that was submitted in an ongoing limitation proceeding that had been filed under the Limitation of Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. §§30501, et seq, by Seaboard Spirit Limited, owner of the M/V Seaboard Spirit, Seaboard Marine, LTD., operator and owner pro hac vice of the Seaboard Spirit, and Seaboard Ship Management, Inc., the vessel manager of the Seaboard Spirit (hereinafter collectively referred to as “petitioners” or “vessel owners”). On or about May 4, 2011, the plaintiff, an experienced longshoreman, was acting as the striker for a gang of longshoremen hired by a stevedoring company to offload the Seaboard Spirit’s cargo. The striker is in charge of safety during unloading operations. His responsibilities include checking the cargo to ensure that all of the securing gear has been removed and subsequently giving the order to move forward with the offloading. The striker also acts as the eyes and ears for the longshoremen during discharge operations. In this case, the plaintiff and other longshoremen were unloading a cargo of containers from the Seaboard Spirit. During offloading operations, the plaintiff was pinned between a cargo container and the ship’s bulkhead when a container shifted, causing the plaintiff’s death.

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