Water taxi owner, operator ask court to limit liability

May 19, 2004|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

The owner and the operator of the Seaport Taxi that capsized March 6, killing five people, asked the U.S. District Court in Baltimore yesterday to take jurisdiction over a lawsuit filed by three of the accident's survivors.

In their complaint, the boat's owner, the nonprofit Living Classrooms Foundation, and its operator, Baltimore Harbor Shuttle, said their liability for the accident should be limited under a federal maritime law that restricts possible damages to the value of the vessel involved -- in this case, the pontoon boat Lady D.

"The Accident and the damages arising therefrom were caused by an Act of God, namely, the sudden, unexpected and extremely violent winds which struck the Baltimore Harbor that afternoon," they said in the complaint.

Last week, three survivors filed a $17 million lawsuit alleging the owner and operator were "negligent and careless" by sending the boat into choppy water with an impending storm.

Yesterday, the survivors' lawyer, Stuart M. Salisbury, said he was not surprised by yesterday's action. "We've prepared for it, and we think we will have no problem overcoming it," he said, adding that the post-accident value of the Lady D would likely be close to nothing.

The three survivors who filed the lawsuit are: Thomas Pierce, 60, of New Jersey, who lost his wife and daughter; and Eric Jahnsen, 25, and Sarah Kernagis, 23, of North Carolina.

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