Unseaworthiness

September 04, 2009 @ 12:20 PM -- by

Brownsville Jones Act lawyers understand that a vessel and its operator owe members of the vessel’s crew the duty to furnish a seaworthy vessel (one that is reasonably fit for its intended use). This duty is owed by the operator of the vessel. Usually the shipowner is both the operator of the vessel and the seaman’s employer.

To be considered seaworthy, the vessel, its crew and appurtenances and operation must be reasonably fit for the vessel’s intended purpose. The standard is not absolute perfection. "Reasonably fit" is to be determined by a "reasonable man" standard.

Some conditions may be unseaworthy under some conditions but not in others. Ice on a vessel in a frigid climate while the vessel is underway may not be unseaworthy, but the same conditions may make the vessel unseaworthy if the vessel is in a warmer climate or is in port.

Any improper or unreasonably dangerous method of operation may amount to unseaworthiness (as distinguished from an isolated act of negligence). An unsafe method of work may constitute an unseaworthy condition. Inadequate manning which results in fatigue of crewmembers may be unseaworthiness. Cases have held that the vessel operator has a nondelegable responsibility to assure that the vessel is not "undermanned and incompetently crewed."

A "grinding work schedule" which resulted in fatigue of the master was found to render the vessel unseaworthy. Other examples include defective hull, equipment or appliances, defective packaging of stores, and defective cargo packaging and containers.

Failure or misfunction of an item of vessel equipment under proper and expected use establishes unseaworthiness. Unreasonably slippery decks or ladders amount to an unseaworthy condition. Gear, tools and other obstructions left on deck may amount to an unseaworthy condition, but the existence of a clear path across a deck may render the vessel reasonably fit for use and reasonably safe.

Contact South Texas boat accident lawyer Scott Nelson is you are injured in a boating accident.  Our firm represents maritime clients in Corpus Christi, Victoria, Houston, Galveston, Brownsville, and throughout Texas.