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Old 05-09-2019, 13:44   #1
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Legal Liability ?

I recently became aware of a situation that has me wondering on many levels the liability of owners vs 'the marina' when it comes to accidents.
I will provide all the information I have.
A has a liveaboard sv at the marina. There is a marina fire in another section when A is not 'home'. Due to tight access, 'the marina' has A's sv moved to allow greater access for fire vessel to fight the fire.

When A returns 7 hours later, her sv and all she owns is on the bottom. Tragically her pet was aboard as well. There was never any issues with the sv taking on water, and the only logical hypothesis A has is it was tied very tightly during the emergency (peak high tide) and when tide receded, the lines heeled the boat until water came in.

Apparently nobody 'noticed' the vessel in any process of sinking.

'The marina' denies any responsibility.

Has anyone experienced something similar? If you as an individual or an organization move a properly secured vessel and damage it during the move there would be liability. I would assume 'the marina' would bear responsibility in this situation but admit there are several unknowns involved.

I always read stories and try to decide how I would handle the situations, I would consult an attorney.

Thoughts and ideas ?
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Old 05-09-2019, 14:40   #2
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Re: Legal Liability ?

It sounds like there may be something there. She should read the marina contract, and consult a good local lawyer. People are famous for not taking responsibility.
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Old 05-09-2019, 14:48   #3
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Re: Legal Liability ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by S/V Adeline View Post
Due to tight access, 'the marina' has A's sv moved to allow greater access for fire vessel to fight the fire.

(snip)

the only logical hypothesis A has is it was tied very tightly during the emergency (peak high tide) and when tide receded, the lines heeled the boat until water came in.
I've had a boat next to me sink twice in its' slip. The first time it happened nobody was around to see it. The second time, myself and another guy on the dock were there. The boat was filled with water almost up to the gunwales but was still in a normal attitude with all dock lines secure.

As the companionway hatch was open, and tools were lying on the deck as if being used, we both feared for the safety of the elderly man who owned the boat. My dock buddy leaned over to look into the cabin and thus added his weight to the starboard side near the transom. As he did that the boat heeled aft and the weight of the water rushing aft caused the stern to dip and seawater flooded into the boat sinking it.

The time it took for the boat to sink once the stern was submerged was very close to the speed of gravity. In other words, it happened so fast my dock buddy almost fell under as well. The 36' sailboat came to rest with its' mooring lines as taut as guitar strings about 5 feet below sea level.

So...

A logical conclusion could include a scenario where the fire fighting added enough water ballast to the boat that a shifting of the boats' attitude could cause a situation where a portion of a gunwale dipped below the surface and the rest of the boat followed.

As far as the marina's liability is concerned, that is probably spelled out in the contract signed by both parties. It sounds like somebody's insurance attorneys are going to get involved. That's what insurance is for. I would imagine the fire fighters come under some kind of good Samaritan laws as a matter of course.
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Old 05-09-2019, 15:08   #4
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Read the marina contract.. it is usually worded that they can move your boat to another slip should there be a need in their opinion.. they also declare non liability for any damage etc to the boat while in the marina.
Its like trying to claim for damage from a public car park like Wal Mart.. No chance.
Dont like it..???
Move.
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Old 05-09-2019, 15:39   #5
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Re: Legal Liability ?

There might be marina security video of the area, or the event. The marina contract is going to loom large I believe, but an intentional act, and gross negligence, might overcome it. If there were witnesses, or video, that would be a lot better. The plaintiff has the burden of proving liability, although there is a principal of res ipsa loquitur that could help. Best thing to do is get advice from a local lawyer, ASAP, and try to see what evidence exists. Please don't interepret this as legal advice, outside of the advice to consult with a local lawyer. Good luck to her - that sounds devastating, in her live-aboard situation.
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Old 05-09-2019, 15:42   #6
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Re: Legal Liability ?

don't ask a forum!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

go ask a lawyer
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Old 05-09-2019, 16:03   #7
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Re: Legal Liability ?

Hardhead, that was my thought as well.

Shenandoah, the vessel was nowhere near the fire, which is why it is believed it was sunk by the tide. Given the fire opposite side of marina lasted many hours, I can somewhat understand if she went quickly maybe nobody noticed.

Boatman, I dont think 'non liability' applies when the marina physically takes charge of your vessel.
I know my previous contract with a marina stated non liability, but also stated they could move it and were responsible for said move ie: properly secured in new location. If they moved my vessel while on the hard, and it dropped out of the lift or improperly placed the stands, their insurance would cover it.

When I left too much slack in one spring line I repaired their dock!!

I know walmart DID pay for damage their employee accidentally caused to my vehicle. They would never attempt to move your car but hire it to a towing service with appropriate liability insurance. You are right they are not liable for damage caused on their lot UNLESS they cause it.

The marina admits they had the boat relocated and secured. The question of properly secured is unknown.
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Old 05-09-2019, 16:16   #8
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pirate Re: Legal Liability ?

How can a boat be sunk by the tide unless it was secured to a fixed concrete wall that submerged by a few feet at high water.. Its a puzzlement.
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Old 05-09-2019, 19:33   #9
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Re: Legal Liability ?

Lash the boat at high tide, side on to the dock, leave no slack for boat to lower as tide goes out. If your cleats hold, she will roll on her side.
Growing up in Gulf Breeze I saw more than a few powerboats hanging from a private pier, one side in the mud, the other securely tied at the high water level.
This dock is exposed to wind, waves, channel wake, etc and the sailboat had minimal freeboard (26ft daysailor). It would not have taken much heel to start taking water.
As a liveaboard I imagine she was loaded heavy and sitting lower anyway.
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How can a boat be sunk by the tide unless it was secured to a fixed concrete wall that submerged by a few feet at high water.. Its a puzzlement.
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Old 05-09-2019, 19:51   #10
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Re: Legal Liability ?

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As a liveaboard I imagine she was loaded heavy and sitting lower anyway.
My neighbor in the adjacent slip to my boat when I was a liveaboard was a hoarder of old newspapers and magazines. He was in his '70s and lived on a 34' sailboat. Unfortunately he died of a massive heart attack right there on the dock in front of a group of us.

When his children came and cleaned the boat out it rose out of the water 9". It's amazing how much stuff liveaboards will cram on their boat. Especially once they stop taking it to sea.
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Old 05-09-2019, 20:04   #11
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Re: Legal Liability ?

I have seen similar. This young lady is just out of high school so I doubt it was that bad, but it would not take too much given the size and type sailboat she had.

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When his children came and cleaned the boat out it rose out of the water 9". It's amazing how much stuff liveaboards will cram on their boat. Especially once they stop taking it to sea.
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Old 06-09-2019, 09:29   #12
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Re: Legal Liability ?

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Originally Posted by S/V Adeline View Post
I have seen similar. This young lady is just out of high school so I doubt it was that bad, but it would not take too much given the size and type sailboat she had.
No such thing as as a marina saying in their contract they take no responsibiltiy , the law is clear , you are paying for a service and therefore a certain amount of service is required or the contract can be challenged , no matter what little piece of paper they make you sign , hence why lawyers are a plenty in civil cases .

In this case the boat got moved by the marina staff who have a certain duty of care to ensure they do this as trained employees and know what they are doing , and it seems by the OP they have securedthe boat in a manner that was not safe nor secure. therefore one could argue they were not trained to do this job ,and then we can look at their training records etc.

So it is always wise to go see a good laywer , the fact that a civil case costs money to defend , the Marinas insurance company may payout rather than face court case.
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Old 06-09-2019, 09:52   #13
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Re: Legal Liability ?

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the Marinas insurance company may payout rather than face court case.
as a surveyor involved in many claims disputes. This statement is absolutely accurate. They don't fight too hard until the claim gets really high. Sounds like this would be a nuisance to them and they'll likely pay without too much of a fight.
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Old 06-09-2019, 11:48   #14
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Re: Legal Liability ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by tarian View Post
No such thing as as a marina saying in their contract they take no responsibiltiy , the law is clear , you are paying for a service and therefore a certain amount of service is required or the contract can be challenged , no matter what little piece of paper they make you sign , hence why lawyers are a plenty in civil cases .

In this case the boat got moved by the marina staff who have a certain duty of care to ensure they do this as trained employees and know what they are doing , and it seems by the OP they have securedthe boat in a manner that was not safe nor secure. therefore one could argue they were not trained to do this job ,and then we can look at their training records etc.

So it is always wise to go see a good laywer , the fact that a civil case costs money to defend , the Marinas insurance company may payout rather than face court case.

I consulted a lawyer with a similar question and this is absolutely correct. You may be forced to sign away your rights to tie up at a marina or in other situations but a person or business is still liable if negligence on their part causes damage or injury to you or your property.
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Old 06-09-2019, 12:03   #15
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Re: Legal Liability ?

The owner still has to notify and file a claim with her own insurance.
It is up to her underwriter to subrogate if they desire.
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