Richard Craven v Cashman Equipment Corporation


[B]Case Name: [/B][I]Richard Craven v Cashman Equipment Corporation
[/I][B]Date Decided: [/B]September, 14, 2009
[B]Court: [/B]United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
[B]Judge: [/B]Judge Jones, Judge Prado, Judge Haynes
[B]Citation: [/B]2009 WL 2921599 (C.A.5(Miss.))[B]Background:
[/B]Defendant, Cashman Equipment Corporation (“Cashman”), appealed a judgment in favor of plaintiff, Richard Craven (“Craven”), in a maritime negligence case.

Cashman, owner of a dilapidated dredge the [I]Conical[/I]. Cashman removed a crane from the deck of the Conical creating a three foot by three foot hole. The barge was moved to another location and leased by Offshore Specialty Fabricators (“OSF”) who was instructed to place the rented barge in a position that required securing three barges and shifting the group along the river, to be done at night.

Craven, an OSF employee, boarded the barge to prepare it for shifting. Craven walked along the barge, without a functioning headlight on his safety helmet to assist another employee and fell through the hole left after removal of the barge’s crane.

Craven sued both Cashman for maritime negligence and OSF under the Jones Act.* OSF and Cravel settled prior to trial and OSF filed a cross-claim against Cashman for reimbursement. The district court found Cashman 85% at fault, OSF 10% at fault, and Craven 5% at fault. The lower court denied Cashman’s petition for limited liability because the barge was a “dead vessel” and found because Cashman had knowledge and privity of the hole.

Cashman appealed the distribution of fault and the limitation of liability rulings. OSF appealed the district court’s failure to award prejudgment interest on OSF’s recovery of past maintenance and cure expenses.

Were Cashman and OSF successful in appealing the district court’s judgment ruling in favor of Craven?

[/B]Cashman argued that the factual findings that they had knowledge or should have seen the hole in the barge. The District Court found that Cashman’s operations manager at the time, and an equipment manager, saw or should have seen the whole. This Court did not find that the district court erred in finding that Cashman had knowledge of the dangerous condition.

As for Cashman’s appeal on the issue of whether Limitation should be allowed because it was a “dead ship” this Court held that because sufficient knowledge and privity was found on Cashman’s part, than this issue nee not to be determined.

Accordingly, this Court affirmed the district court’s rulings.

[/B]A vessel owner will attempt to limit their liability if an accident occurs on their ship as a result of a negligent condition. The owner of a vessel cannot limit his liability if he had knowledge and privity of the condition that caused the harm.

Here, the knowledge was imputed to Cashman because their supervisors, were “agents” to Cashman and therefore Cashman had knowledge or should have had knowledge of the three foot by three foot hole in the deck of the barge.

Steve Gordon