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Court considered whether the plaintiffs in a boat accident lawsuit had a claim under Maritime Law. In re: Stowman, 2017 WL 6972566 (N.Y. App. Div. Dec. 28, 2017)


Boating accidents can result in catastrophic injuries and even fatalities, leaving victims and their families with physical, emotional, and financial damage. When a boating accident occurs, legal action may be necessary to seek compensation for the losses incurred. In re: Stowman involves a boating accident and the application of maritime law.

The case of In re: Stowman arises from a boating accident that occurred on August 8, 2009, on the Hudson River in New York. The accident involved two boats, a 20-foot pleasure boat and a 300-foot barge that was being pushed by a tugboat. The pleasure boat was carrying several passengers, including Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon, who were to be married two weeks later. The driver of the pleasure boat was Jojo John, who had been drinking prior to the accident.

As the pleasure boat was approaching the barge, it collided with it, causing the boat to capsize. As a result of the accident, Stewart and Lennon were killed, and John and two other passengers were injured. John was later convicted of vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison.

The families of Stewart and Lennon filed a wrongful death lawsuit against John and the companies that owned the barge and tugboat, alleging negligence and seeking damages for their losses. The defendants denied liability and argued that the accident was solely the fault of John, who was intoxicated and operating the boat recklessly.

The main legal issues in In re: Stowman were whether the defendants could be held liable for the boating accident and whether the plaintiffs were entitled to damages under maritime law. The case involved complex issues of maritime law, which governs accidents that occur on navigable waters, such as the Hudson River. The defendants argued that the accident was solely the fault of John, and that they were not responsible for his actions.

The plaintiffs, on the other hand, claimed that the defendants were liable under the legal doctrine of “negligence per se,” which holds that a person or entity can be held liable for a violation of a safety statute or regulation. The plaintiffs argued that the defendants violated federal regulations by failing to properly mark the barge and tugboat and failing to keep a proper lookout for other vessels.

The trial court initially dismissed the case, finding that the defendants could not be held liable for John’s actions and that the plaintiffs did not have a valid claim under maritime law. However, the decision was appealed, and the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s ruling, allowing the case to proceed.

The Appellate Division found that the plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence to support their claims of negligence and that the defendants had violated federal regulations. The court also held that the defendants could be held liable under the legal doctrine of “vicarious liability,” which holds that an employer can be held responsible for the actions of its employees.

The case ultimately settled for $9 million, with the defendants agreeing to pay $7.5 million and Jojo John, the driver of the pleasure boat, agreeing to pay $1.5 million.

The case of In re: Stowman demonstrates the importance of following boating regulations and ensuring that all passengers are safely secured while onboard. The court’s decision to deny the respondent’s appeal and uphold the decision of the trial court highlights the serious consequences of failing to take necessary safety precautions while operating a boat.

This case serves as a reminder to all boaters to prioritize safety and take necessary measures to prevent accidents and injuries. It is also a reminder of the potential legal consequences that can result from negligence or failure to comply with regulations. If you or someone you know has been injured in a boating accident, it is important to contact an experienced New York boat accident lawyer to discuss your legal options.


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