Boat Owner Could Not Escape Liability Under U.S. Maritime Law’s Limitation of Liability Act

Stutman Law recently secured a favorable settlement for the insurer of a South Carolina marina by arguing that the adverse party’s reliance on U.S. maritime law, specifically the Limitation of Liability Act set forth in 46 U.S.C. § 350501 was misplaced.  The claim arose from a fire that began on board a boat berthed at the marina.  The fire occurred when the boat’s owner negligently performed work on the vessel’s generator, causing a spark which ignited natural gas fumes.  The fire spread to the marina, damaging the marina’s business and property and numerous other boats berthed at the marina.  The fire resulted in over one million dollars in damages.  The boat owner sought to limit his liability for the fire to the value of his thirty-year-old vessel pursuant to the Limitation of Liability Act.  Stutman Law opposed this effort, analyzing principles of maritime law and arguing that the boat owner did not meet the criteria for limiting liability for his negligence under the Act.  Stutman Law also argued that the vessel owner had breached his contract with the marina related to the condition of the space he leased there, and the Act could not be used to circumvent his contractual obligations.  The boat owner’s liability carrier ultimately conceded and paid the liability policy limits.