City Cites "Act Of God" In Staten Island Ferry Crash
10/04/2005 08:59 AM
The city says the Department of Transportation shouldn't be held responsible for the 2003 Staten Island Ferry crash that killed 11 people because an "act of God" contributed to the crash.
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Victims and their families have filed claims totaling $3.2 billion against the city, after 11 people were killed when the Andrew J. Barberi slammed into a St. George pier. They say the DOT is liable for the accident.
However, court papers filed by the city list "an act of God" as the cause of the accident, arguing that although the ship hit a fixed object, the captain's medical problems couldn't be predicted.
The "act of God" defense is usually used in natural disasters, like earthquakes and floods, but an investigation has revealed that the crash occurred after the pilot of the ferry passed out.
Wayne Meehan, an expert in maritime law who is representing the city, said in a statement: "The sudden and unforeseeable incapacitation of a vessel's operator qualifies as such an 'act of God'. This is a principle which is well known to maritime law practitioners."
The city is arguing that under an old maritime law a ship owner's liability can be limited to the value of the ship. In this case that amounts to just more than $14 million.
Victims say the city acted negligently and shouldn't be able to limit its liability.