by MET Staff
| Thursday, July 10, 2014 |
There are 15
people facing charges for the South Korean ferry sinking that killed over 300
people (mostly children and teenagers) last April. The charges range from
homicide to negligence.
The defendants’ counselors are building a defense that essentially attempts to
blame the deaths on the Korean Coast Guard.
against Korean Ferry Charges
of the charges involve the fact that captain and crew failed to take steps to
rescue the occupants. The captain and crew jumped ship and survived, while the
passengers were told to stay put on the obviously sinking ship and await help
defendants’ counselors are making the argument that the captain and crewmembers
did not attempt rescue because the Coast Guard had been called to the scene and
had the professional skills they thought necessary to perform rescue
operations. They are arguing that when the Coast Guard arrived, their
the argument hold up in court?
Coast Guard has been criticized by the public for its slow and ineffectual
response. Korean President Park Geun-hye has apologized and promised reform.
However, the agency’s actions do not necessarily erase the captain’s, crew’s,
or ferry owners’ degree of responsibility for the devastating accident.
unlikely that the defense will hold up in court. Maritime attorney Kim Hyun states according
to Reuters: “[The defense is] barely convincing. The crew
stayed on the bridge for about 40 minutes and didn’t do anything to rescue
passengers although they knew the ship was going to sink. What crew members are
claiming is hard to accept.”
a similar accident occurred in U.S. territory, would the USCG be liable?
raises questions about what is considered the captain’s or crew’s
responsibilities and what is considered the USCG’s responsibility in an
emergency situation. Who can be liable for damages?
It’s a very
complex area of the law. For example, the USCG will be immune from negligence
lawsuits as per the Discretionary Function Exception, found in 28 U.S.C.
Section 2680(a) that protects broad policy decisions.
However, the USCG can be liable for damages caused
by negligence, wrongful acts, or omission of federal employees if:
- the agency decided
to embark on a mission;
- somehow acted in a
manner that breached their duty of care; and
- their actions made
matters worse for the victims.
If the USCG
is liable, the government will be held to the same standards to which citizens
are held in court.
Reading on USCG Responsibilities
information on USCG duties and where the line between the captain’s and the
USCG duties is drawn, you might find the
following cases interesting:
- Turner v. United States,
2012 WL 2130933 (E.D.N.C.);
- Lewis v. United States,
2002 AMC 2797 (M.D. Fla. 2002);
- United States v. Gaubert,
499 U.S. 315 (1991);
- Hurd v. United States,
134 F.Supp.2d 745 (DSC 2001); and
- Wade v. United States,
2012 WL 2050359 (N.D. Cal.).
simply search the above cases online to view the details and decisions. Also, for more information on topics of
interest to the maritime industry, visit the My Vessel Logs blog.