Vehicle Carrier Strikes Fishing Trawler, Killing Three Fishermen
April started off with a tragedy in the maritime community as a fishing trawler, the Mar de Marin, was struck and sunk by a 541 foot vehicle carrier, the Baltic Breeze. Three fishermen died as a result of the collision and two were missing. The five surviving members were rescued after boarding a life raft and sent home. The accident occurred off the coast of Spain, and the details of the cause of the collision were unknown at the time of the initial reports.
As a coastal state, Washington and its many ports sees many types of vessels that navigate in narrow waterways and less-than-ideal weather. The United States Court of Appeals case, Stacy v. Rederiet Otto Danielson, et al., 609 F. 3d 1033, (9th Cir. 2010), is a decision that assesses the liability in a similar type of accident. In this case several fishing boats where in a port off the coast of California. A freighter came through the port, loaded with cargo, and struck one of the fishing vessels in its wake, killing the captain Another fishing vessel, which was near the collision, felt its wake and narrowly avoided being struck. The operator of that vessel sued for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The operator claimed that the vessel put him in imminent risk of bodily harm and caused emotional harm so that he could not work and needed psychiatric therapy. The District Court dismissed the case for failing to state a cause of action, but the Court of Appeals reversed, asserting that jurisdiction was proper under maritime law to weigh the tortious infliction of emotional injury.
The appellate decision and the determination of the district court judge focused on a previous 9th Circuit Case, Chan v. Soc'y Expeditions, Inc., 39 F.3d 1398 (9th Cir. 1994). That case was the first case in the 9th Circuit that established the tort of emotional harm as proper under maritime jurisdiction. The majority held that Chan provided the jurisdiction, but the determination of the standard for negligent inflection of emotional distress was guided by Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Gottshall, 512 U.S. 532 (1994). In Gottshall, the test of whether or not a tort was committed hinged on whether the plaintiff was in the "zone of danger", where they either experience physical impact from the negligent behavior or if they were in imminent risk of physical harm. The dissent was very animated in its assertion that Chan actually provided the guidance of the tests that should be applied to the operator of the fishing vessel, and ultimately concluded that the fishing vessel did not meet any of the tests.
If you have been in a commercial fishing accident, call the experienced Washington Commercial Fishing Accident attorneys, John Merriam and Gordon Webb. Our attorneys rely on the decades of knowledge gained by working as seamen and as maritime lawyers, and can help you maximize the compensation your deserve. Whether it is a slip-and-fall accident caused by an unseaworthy vessel, or a carelessly navigated vessel, our attorneys understand the challenges you and your family face by the injuries others have caused. Call today for a free, confidential consultation at 877.800.1007.