Liability for damage during a storm? - SailNet Community

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Old 05-13-2008
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Unhappy Liability for damage during a storm?

Hello,
I havenít had a chance to poke around this forum yet, but I was hoping someone could give me some advice about my chances of getting anything back for the damage my sailboat sustained last night.
I have a rare 1969 Severn 20 sailboat, (hull #6 of 100 made) which WAS in good condition. Last night a storm came through Lake Nockamixon and my boat was seriously damaged along the rub-rail on both sides.
The stern line on neighbors boat broke and the boats banged together causing twice as much damage on my boat than his. I feel his boat was not secured properly. The stern line was probably frayed as a result of it rubbing against the dock because he was not using a spring line on the other side of the stern.
I would like to prove that the other boat owner was negligent in not having his boat properly tied up. I have plenty of photos. Based on the information I offered so far, would I be right?
Assuming the other party doesnít have insurance (I donít), do I have a good legal base to sue the other party? I hope it doesnít come to that, in fact Iím ready to sell the boat at a substantial loss at this point.
How do courts rule in cases like this when there was a storm involved and someoneís dock line breaks?
Thanks in advance for any advice.
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Old 05-13-2008
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Sounds to me like you have a case. It is all about taking measures to manage your boat in a reasonably sea worth fashion to ensure that your boat does not damage others property. Would an extra spring line on your neighbor's boat have been a reasonable precaution? No doubt. Would it have been reasonable for you to hang a fender between your boats? Perhaps. It would have been especially 'reasonable' for you to go down to your boat to check on it knowing that there was a storm approaching.
I hope your neighbor has insurance as it is my guess that you would be awarded at least half the amount of damages by his insurance.
Get a repair estimate. The damage does not sound as if the boat cannot be saved. Better yet, post some pictures of the damage and you will get plenty of advice about fixing it.
Sorry for your loss and good luck.
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Old 05-13-2008
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I'd say you have a good argument. Your neighbors boat hit yours and caused damage. It should be their responsibility no matter what the cause.

If a powerboat makes a wake near a marina they are responsible for any damage that the wake may cause. If your cars rolls down your driveway and hits the car across the street, it is your fault weather you had the parking break set or not....
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Old 05-13-2008
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I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if the severity of the storm was atypical, then you'll have a hard time making a case against your slip neighbors. If your boat is the only one damaged, then maybe, but it's likely it will be blamed on the storm rather than your neighbors poor job of securing his boat.

Good luck.
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Last edited by NOLAsailing; 05-13-2008 at 06:24 PM.
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Old 05-13-2008
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If the storm wasn't some unforseen catastrophic event, then it was one of those unpleasant but expected bursts of weather that a vessel is supposed to be moored strongly enough to resist. Yours did, his didn't, and nothing failed except his stern line. Seems like valid grounds for a claim.

You may want to get insurance in the future (though sometimes the cost for old classic boats is prohibitive or coverage unavailable), then recovery against the other boat would be your underwriters' problem and not yours.
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Thanks for your advice and comments. That storm must have come out of nowhere. All I knew is that it rained last night. I had intentions of enjoying a beautiful day with 13+ mph breeze when I discovered the damage today. I spoke to the Park Ranger who saw it and he agreed that the other boat should have been secured better.

Well, I've owned this boat for over 18 years and I really had some wild times with it! I figured if I lost it at this point, I would have gotten my use out of it. That's why I didn't insure it.

I'll be working on getting some photos posted

Thanks!

Last edited by whitewater7; 05-13-2008 at 09:06 PM.
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Old 05-13-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NOLAsailing View Post
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if the severity of the storm was atypical, then you'll have a hard time making a case against your slip neighbors. If your boat is the only one damaged, then maybe, but it's likely it will be blamed on the storm rather than your neighbors poor job of securing his boat.

Good luck.
As boaters we should secure our boats for the atypical storm, and I think that's what we all can expect of our neighbors. Atypical is an tricky word - a storm that didn't seriously damage the docks themselves wouldn't seem so severe, certainly not in the serious storm category - a hurricane does its damage by carrying away the floats, or lifting boats over the pilings. I would expect the other boater to cover any repair costs, and hopeully with out a lawsuit. (Several years ago I found my stern rail bent. Noticing a bent fluke on the anchor of the Hunter 34 on the next mooring over, I asked the owner if the two had a relationship. He admitted hitting my boat, but thought there was no damage, and agreed to pay the $900 for a replacement rail out of his pocket.)
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I won't be able to show photos until I have 10 posts.
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Old 05-13-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by whitewater7 View Post
I won't be able to show photos until I have 10 posts.

Goto the song chain in off-topic and post up 6 of the worst songs you ever heard
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Quote:
Originally Posted by artbyjody View Post
Goto the song chain in off-topic and post up 6 of the worst songs you ever heard
Thanks...(I always leave the room when I hear that YMCA song!!)

Anyway, as far as the damage goes, when I sit inside the boat, I can see daylight for about 6' where the deck joins the hull, and the area that a the rub rail attaches to is smashed up too. That requires some upside down fiberglass work, or fabricating some sort of mold or mount, right?

The damage is to both sides of the boat about mid-ship.
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