Jeff Bloomfield, Esquire
Under the general maritime law Doctrine of Unseaworthiness, a vessel owner owes an absolute and nondelegable duty to a seaman to furnish a vessel that is reasonably safe and fit for its intended purpose. This duty is absolute and is independent of the duty under the Jones Act to exercise reasonable care. Liability under the Doctrine of Unseaworthiness is not dependent upon a showing of negligence or fault. Liability for an unseaworthy vessel is, therefore, a form of strict liability.
There are numerous examples of what can constitute an actionable unseaworthy condition. For example, an unsafe method of work may be an unseaworthy condition. Not having an adequate crew resulting in fatigue of crewmembers may constitute unseaworthiness. Also, not having sufficient crewmembers to perform heavy lifting can be deemed unseaworthy. Unreasonably slippery decks or ladders, or obstructions left on deck may constitute an unseaworthy condition. Even a temporary or unforeseeable failure of a piece of vessel equipment under proper and expected use is sufficient to establish unseaworthiness, provided that the unseaworthy condition was the proximate cause of the harm suffered by the plaintiff.
Complying with industry customs and practices will not discharge the duty to provide a seaworthy vessel.
Damages recoverable in an unseaworthiness claim are the same as those damages available under a Jones Act negligence claim. Both claims may be brought together, although only one set of damages may be recovered.
Since an unseaworthiness claim arises under the general maritime law, there is a 3-year statute of limitations. CONTACT US TODAY FOR A FREE CONSULTATION!