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Who’s responsible for personal injuries caused by fights?

While professionalism is crucial in the maritime industry, it’s a sad fact that fights can sometimes occur. If an injury occurs as a result of a fight, who is responsible for a seaman’s lost wages or medical bills? Pacific Maritime Magazine provides insight on who can be held liable when fights happen aboard a seafaring vessel.

The Doctrine of Seaworthiness

In past cases, courts have found that owners of vessels can be held responsible for fights. This was the case in 1955, when two seamen came to blows after a liquor-fueled party aboard their ship. The injured worker claimed the owner of the ship was responsible for hiring such a worker of low moral character and the court agreed. This was according to the doctrine of seaworthiness, which applies to workers as well as the vessel itself. It was determined that the worker who caused the injuries was not of the same disposition as the average seaman, and therefore the owner of the vessel was negligent in hiring him. While damages were awarded initially, the decision was overturned when appealed.

When Liability Isn’t Found

In other cases, the court may find that the owner is not liable, even when it’s likely that liability would be determined in other circumstances. Once again, the doctrine of seaworthiness comes into play; in an incident aboard vessel, one man with a history of aggression struck another man after an argument and the injured many sought damages from the owner of the boat. Despite the aggressor’s history, the court didn’t find that it decreased the seaworthiness of the situation. In fact, the court stated that seamen are held to a different standard than workers on the shore. As a result, a limited history of violent behavior didn’t have the same impact as it would in other cases.

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