There is an interesting torts suit stemming from the pirating of the Maersk Alabama in the Gulf of Aden. Crew members are now accusing the celebrated captain of the ship, Richard Phillips, of causing the incident by ignoring repeated warnings to sail around the area after earlier pirate attacks.
Phillips was heralded as a hero for his steadfast conduct during the period of captivity. However, crew members now allege that he decided to ignore warnings to save time and fuel — taking the ship into the middle of the area that was previously identified as swarming with pirates off the African coast.
Maritime authorities issued at least seven warnings to avoid the area in the days before the attack.
The critics now include the chief engineer, the helmsman and the navigator on the ship. Four of the 20 crew members have spoken out against Phillips. Chief engineer Mike Perry put it simply: “He caused this, and we all know it. All the Alabama crew knows about it.”
Criminal actions of third parties generally cut off liability as matters of proximate causation. However, in some cases, courts find that such acts are foreseeable. That was the case in Kline v. 1500 Massachusetts Avenue where a landlord was found liable for not taking precautions to protect tenants from crime in an apartment building in Washington. Here is the Kline decision.
While one crew member has filed, others may join with their own filing in the weeks to come.