PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) – On a cloudy Portland day, a jetboat on the Willamette River was carrying a group of Tualatin elementary school students and their parents. The other ship was transporting tourists, including a Canadian pop star.
Rounding out a narrow turn from opposite directions at high speed, the two boats hit each other with their heads, injuring several passengers, including at least one child.
Now the high-profile Portland company that owned both ships, Willamette Jetboat Excursions, is seeking a federal judge to protect it from costly lawsuits, claiming that passenger injuries from the accident “were not caused or contributed to fault and negligence.” “of the company or its crews.
The ships were operated “in a safe and conscientious manner and in accordance with all federal and state laws of the United States,” the company claims.
The lawsuit sheds light on a 170-year-old law restricting the legal exposure of shipowners, a target recently targeted by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Republican Salud Carbayal in federal legislation introduced last week.
Willamette Jetboat Excursions declined to comment on the article, as did a lawyer for the company, Kurt Peterson of law firm Harrang Long.
The Willamette Jetboat brand blue ships have become a staple of the Portland scene over the past decade. They pass through Willamette and other waterways at speeds of 40 miles per hour or more. Tickets cost $ 55, or $ 40 for children under 11 years old.
Elementary school group
On June 4, Andrea Haslewood and her 11-year-old daughter were excited to celebrate the end of the school season. From the starting point of the tour company, they boarded the Osprey boat with two dozen children and other parents. They were all celebrating the end of classes at Mitch Charter School, part of the Tigard Tualatin School District.
The boat speeded south toward Oregon City, then headed back north. The company advertises a lot “going fast and spinning and getting wet” and that’s what you know, fun, “Haslewood said.” And it was really fun. “
This ended in a narrow curve.
“We were walking at high speed along the left bank of the river in Willamette,” Haslewood recalls. “We reached a blind spot and another boat from the same company hit us in the head.”
When the boats collided, the arch of the largest Peregrine Falcon climbed over the Osprey arch, breaking its plexiglass glass and injuring some of the parents sitting in the front row of the tour boat, according to Haslewood.
“The front of the boat was completely destroyed,” she said.
“Many children were very shocked and very scared … I later found out that many children had their fingers dislocated and … bruises and bruises,” she said.
“My daughter broke her arm.”
Injured include composer “Bad Day”
Passengers in the Peregrine Falcon were also injured, according to a lawsuit filed in July.
Among the plaintiffs was Daniel Powter, known for his successful song, “Bad Day”. The song became a staple of the American Idol TV show with its upbeat show when “everything, turns out wrong”.
Passengers on the Falcon “suddenly witnessed another plane coming around the turn at the river also at high speed,” the complaint continued. “Two ships violently hit each other archery. Pressed metal, broken glass, the crew was furious and the passengers screamed in horror as these prospective Claimants jumped for the ship. “
The lawsuit alleges that boat operators have not complied with state boat laws requiring that ships on rivers stay to the right, or to the right, and operate safely.
Powter and two other passengers who filed the lawsuit suffered unspecified serious injuries and are seeking at least $ 5.5 million in damages, plus attorney fees, according to the lawsuit.
Lawyer for Hawk the passengers, Adam Deitz from Anderson Carey, declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
The Jetboat company sued
Last month, Willamette Jetboat filed a lawsuit in federal court, denying liability, seeking “release from liability” and citing a federal law called the Shipowners Liability Limit Act.
Adopted in 1851, the law has invoked high-profile, large-scale accidents in the ocean, ranging from the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 to the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
The law allows shipowners to limit their damages to the value of the ship following an accident unless negligence is proven.
As one legal blog put it, the law “allowed Titanic owners to limit their liability to the value of Titanic lifeboats, only $ 92,000 at the time, after the Titanic sank in April 1912 taking more than 1,500 lives.” “
Recently, she was called in to try to avoid responsibility for the deaths of 17 people on a duck boat that sank in Missouri and the deaths of 34 people in a fire and sinking of a submarine called Conception in California, both in 2018.
On September 22, Feinstein and Carbajal introduced legislation in Congress to eliminate the bill – which Carbajal called “outdated and unfair” and to restore the ability of conception victims’ family members to compensate.
The company was sued earlier
The legal filing of the Willamette Jetboat Excursions requires that total payments to its passengers be limited to $ 300,000, which it estimates is the combined value of the ships after the collision.
This appears to be the first time the company has invoked the 170-year-old law. But going to court is not the first.
The company has been sued nine times since 2002. In them, passengers or other vessels claim injuries and negligence, two of which claimed unsafe practices led to back fractures.
“It was not certain how they were acting at the time with us, and so I would not be surprised to know that it has happened in the past,” Haslewood said.
She is skeptical of the Willamette Jetboat claim that the company and its employees are not responsible for the crash. “Someone was at fault, and he was one of their leaders,” she said.
Haslewood says her daughter’s arm has healed. But the 11-year-old had panic attacks when the family tried other boat trips.
“She gets really nervous and starts crying uncontrollably and talks about the memory of the accident. And she’s not sure she wants to do it anymore,” Haslewood said. “Touching hail that she is still dealing with her emotional impact.”
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