After the SeaStreak Wall Street commuter ferry crashed into a concrete slip last week injuring 70 people, the liability and claims of the accident continue to progress. The ferry is valued at $7.6 million, which could end up being the total amount the company would have to pay toward personal injury lawsuits filed by passengers who were injured in the accident. SeaStreak, a limited liability company, filed for a petition today in Newark, NJ to request that all claims brought against the company be combined to one venue. Another petition, filed to the U.S. Federal Court, exonerates the company from any liability of injuries that were sustained by the passengers; claiming that any damages found against the company in litigation are to be limited to the value of the ferry at the time of the accident, which in this case is $7.6 million. The dollar figure, $7.6M, comes from a valuation certificate that the company filed for promptly after the accident and damage occurred.
It is common for ship-owners, who could be facing hundreds of lawsuits, to petition the court to consolidate proceedings and set the value of the vessel as the limit against the company for damages that are found in litigation. This statue goes back to the 1800’s where it was initially intended to protect ship-owners during the age of sailing. While the law still applies—it is only relevant if proven that the incident occurred without prior knowledge to the owner regarding compromising conditions.
Thomas Wynee, SeaStreak spokesperson, said “It’s our intention to deal directly with passengers where we can, but this filing allows us to consolidate all the proceedings that will end in litigation,” Wynne said.
The National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB, continues to investigate to determine the cause of the accident. The investigators are focusing on a damaged propeller on the port side of the vessel. The U.S. Navy Corp of Engineers has also been conducting examinations and surveys of the waterway. The dive team is focusing their efforts on any underwater hazards that may have compromised the vessels integrity. Other data recordings from the engine rooms and on-board cameras have been analyzed to help aid in the investigation.