Frank Caraska v. The State of Washington DOT


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[B]Case Name: [/B]Frank Caraska v. The State of Washington Department of Transportation, Division of Washington State Ferries
[B]Date Decided: [/B]February 8, 2010
[B]Court: [/B]Court of Appeals of Washington Division 1
[B]Judge: [/B]Judge Schindler
[B]Citation: [/B]2010 WL 428007 (Wash.App. Div.1)[B]Background:
[/B]This action involves a personal injury negligence claim under the Jones Act, and unseaworthiness against the Washington Department of Transportation.

Frank Caraska, sued the WSF for injuries he sustained when an intoxicated ferry passenger assaulted him. Following a 3-day bench trial the court dismissed the lawsuit against WSF, and ruled that WSF employees were not negligence in allowing the drunken passenger to board the ferry.

The totality of the evidence suggested that the passenger was drunk and obnoxious but was not acting in threatening or aggressive manner that would have alerted WSF employees he posed a threat to passengers or employees.

The trial court also concluded that the evidence that WSF were “negligently trained” causing an unseaworthy condition. This Court, on appeal, reversed the order of dismissal. This Court found that the trial court erred in narrowly construing WSF’s duty to prevent foreseeable harm from an intoxicated passenger.

On remand, the court found there was no breach of duty by the WSF ferries and that the unseaworthiness claim was not based on adequate evidence.

Caraska appealed the trial court’s decision on remand.

[B]Issue:
[/B]Did the lower court err in determining that WSF employees did not breach a duty owed to Caraska?

[B]Held:
[/B]Caraska argued that on remand, the trial court failed to comply with this Court’s decision in the firat appeal. Caraska contended that the trial court ignored this Court’s opinion by misconstruing and failing to address the duty and refusing to address causation with respect to the Jones Act claim.

Furthermore, Caraska contended that the court merely “glossed over” the unseaworthiness claims of inadequate training.

However, this Court found that the trial court did comply with the decision. The Court pointed out the lack of evidence of training deficiencies. Moreover, Caraska failed, to show by a preponderance of the evidence that WSF breached a duty by selling the drunk passenger a ticket.

Accordingly this Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Caraska’s Jones Act claim.

[B]Comment:
Courts of appeal give much deference to the finders of fact in the lower courts. Appellate courts generally view the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the prevailing party and do [I]not [/I]review credibility determinations. [/B]

[B]As such, it takes an experienced attorney to find errors in evidentiary determinations made by the lower courts. Even though an appellate court may have resolved a factual dispute differently, they cannot overturn the trial court’s findings based upon that standard. [/B]

[B]Steve Gordon *[/B]

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