Cruise Ship Wrongful Death Case

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Landmark Cases

BODDEN v. AMERICANOFFSHORE, INC. 681 F.2d 319; (C.A. 5th 1982)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The husband and father of plaintiff wife and children died as a result of injuries sustained on board defendant ship owners' vessel. Prior to his death, the decedent settled a claim for injuries that he sustained on board defendants' vessel while the vessel was at sea. Plaintiffs brought an action for wrongful death pursuant to the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C.S. § 688 et seq., and general maritime law, and defendants were held jointly and severally liable. On appeal by defendants, the court affirmed the award of damages. The court found that the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), 46 U.S.C.S. § 761 et seq., furnished the exclusive remedy for injuries occurring outside the three-mile limit to which general maritime law was applicable. The court also held that the rule that a survivor could not recover non-pecuniary damages by its own terms only applied to Jones Act, 46 U.S.C.S. § 688 cases arising in territorial waters. The court reasoned that because the boiler explosion on defendants' ship that ultimately resulted in the death of plaintiffs' spouse and father occurred on the high seas, the recovery was permitted.

OUTCOME: Judgment in favor of plaintiff spouse and children for wrongful death damages was affirmed. The court found that defendant ship owners were liable under the Death on the High Seas Act for wrongful death injuries sustained outside of the three-mile limit of the general maritime law regardless of claims settled prior to decedent's death.

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