SOURCE: Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman

December 20, 2012 15:55 ET

Maritime Lawyers Successfully Resolve Limitation of Liability Action

MIAMI, FL--(Marketwire - Dec 20, 2012) - Maritime lawyers Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman are pleased to announce that they have successfully resolved another limitation of liability proceeding in favor of their injured client. The case involved a passenger aboard a rented motorboat who was injured due to the alleged negligence of the boat club that rented the boat and the operator of the boat. Under an arcane law known as the Limitation of Liability Act, the boat club filed an action to limit its liability to the asserted value of the motorboat; in this case, $12,500. The injured passenger's damages, however, amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars. After the limitation action was filed by the boat club, Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman were brought in by the passengers' personal injury law firm to defeat the limitation sought by the boat club. As a result of the arguments raised by Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, the case was successfully resolved for the injured passenger.

Limitation of liability is a statutory remedy in admiralty that allows a vessel owner to limit their liability to the value of the vessel after an incident or accident occurs. A limitation action halts all other proceedings and requires that all claimants file their claims in the one limitation of liability action.

For example, if one recreational boat (BOAT A) collides with another boat (BOAT B), causing severe injury to several of the passengers aboard BOAT B, the owner of BOAT A, which caused the collision, may institute an action in Federal Court seeking to limit his liability to all the potential claimants to a total amount equal to the (post-collision) value of his boat involved in the collision. This is known as a limitation action and it requires the claimants to respond to the action initiated by the boat owner.

If the owner of the vessel can prove that they were not negligent, they can be exonerated from any liability to pay the injured claimants. If the owner can prove that they did not have privity or knowledge about the events that caused the incident or accident then they can limit their liability to the value of the vessel. This can be a harsh remedy if the vessel has little or no value such as a jet ski or a vessel that has sunk. Imagine, in the example above, that the post-collision value of BOAT A is $10,000 while several of the passengers aboard BOAT B have suffered catastrophic personal injuries such as paralysis, coma, and death. If the limitation of liability of BOAT A is upheld, the catastrophically injured passengers in BOAT B will never collect any money for their injuries.

In the absence of any value for the vessel, there is a statutory minimum based on the tonnage for the vessel; however, since a jet ski or most recreational vessels are not very big, in most cases the statutory minimum does not amount to anything significant.

Most personal injury attorneys will never handle a limitation of liability proceeding and probably have never even heard about it. Only attorneys who are actively involved in boat or vessel litigation will come into contact with it and, even then, only very rarely.

The maritime attorneys at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman P.A. have a very active admiralty and maritime practice involving cruise ships, cargo ships, tankers, drill ships, jet skis, power boats, sailing vessels or any other manner of vessel. As such they are regularly sought to handle limitation of liability cases by referring counsel.

Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. is a Miami, FL based law firm focusing on maritime and admiralty personal injury claims against cruise lines and other boat owners. Lipcon's maritime lawyers represent passengers and crew injured on ships worldwide. Representation may be available for passengers and crew injured in accidents, assaults or by reason of illnesses on cruise ships, tankers, motorboats, personal water craft or many other type of vessels. The firm is AV rated, the highest rating available for legal ability and professional and ethical standards.

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