You’ve got to be skeptical of what you read on the Internet.

I recently read an article on some employment website that talked about lawsuits initiated by the crew of hijacked vessels. The article, to my ear, was slanted against such claims. As far as I could tell, all of the obligatory quotes were from maritime lawyers representing owner and operator interests, which is sort of like steaming off with just your port side ballasted down.

At any rate, I haven’t yet represented a crewman in a hijacking claim, but if I did I’d be more bullish than what was presented in this article. Let’s say you were on a vessel that was hijacked and assume that you have facts supporting your arguments. Among other things, you might argue that the captain was negligent in operating the vessel (say, by running too close to a hostile coastline). You might also argue that the vessel was unseaworthy because of the captain’s negligence. However, you would likely have to show that it was more than an isolated negligent act to keep an unseaworthy argument afloat.

Skimming my legal research database, I don’t see much on this issue. There was a suit in Connecticut filed by crewmembers from India which seems to have asserted these types of claims, but it got dismissed on the basis that suit in the U.S. was not an appropriate forum. (Basically, the court felt that the crew, witnesses and owner were all from elsewhere making suit in the U.S. inconvenient.)

Whatever the case, my take is that with the right facts and some good pleading (clearly written legal documents that make compelling arguments based on facts and the law), crewmembers that've suffered through a vessel hijacking might have a decent claim.

Underway and making way.


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