Reed & Reed Inc. has been awarded $298,100 plus costs and interest in a suit against Weeks Marine Inc.
The award stems from an incident that occurred in October 2000. The judgment, issued by U.S. District Court Judge Brock Hornby, found that Weeks Marine was liable for negligence in connection with an accident on the Kennebec River in which a Weeks Marine barge went aground on the Reed & Reed shipways when it tried to pick up a 400-ton concrete grid.
The accident took place during construction of Bath Iron Works’ land-level transfer facility across the river. Because of the size of the concrete grids needed by the facility, a pickup system was devised by Weeks Marine that involved strapping the 400-ton grid onto the end of the Reed & Reed launching ramps at low tide and then lifting the grid with the incoming tide.
According to testimony, on Oct. 11, 2000, the Weeks Marine barge ground out on the Reed & Reed ramps when it tried to lift the grid. The combined weight of the barge, the crane and the grid caused structural damage to the Reed & Reed launching ramps.
The judgment reimburses Reed & Reed and its insurance company, St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance, for the costs of repairing the ways.
During the trial, Weeks Marine claimed it was given inaccurate information regarding the ways by the general contractor, Atkinson Construction. Hornby determined that Atkinson did not contribute to the accident. The judge did determine that it was foreseeable that Weeks Marine’s barge might damage the ways if Weeks Marine permitted the barge to float over them. It was Weeks Marine’s responsibility to ensure the barge did not float over the ways and the company violated that responsibility, according to the judge.
The court also ruled that a vessel owner, such as Weeks, is “bound to use ordinary care and may not carelessly run into danger.”
Reed & Reed’s attorney, David Perkins, said the case demonstrates that maritime operators can’t deflect the blame to others by claiming reliance on design documentation.
“Weeks clearly had the obligation to understand the configuration of the way,” he said. “They failed and are therefore being held liable for the resulting damages.”
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