Jury Awards American Steamship Company Nearly $4.7 Million

Firm Partner Brent Reichert wins historic jury trial for a U.S. maritime matter

A federal jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota in Duluth, Minn., awarded American Steamship Company $4,682,322.55 for repair damages and lost business income after a 11-day trial ended February 21, 2013. The jury decided that Hallett Dock Company was 100 percent responsible for causing the 1,000-foot-long motor vessel Walter J. McCarthy Jr. to partially sink and flood at Hallett’s dock in the Duluth-Superior Harbor.

“This case has a number of extraordinary aspects, the most significant of which is that historically this is one of the extremely rare maritime matters to have been decided by a U.S. jury verdict,” said Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. partner Brent Reichert, lead trial counsel for American Steamship. Reichert is a trial lawyer with extensive experience in large property insurance subrogation and major catastrophic loss litigation and trial work.

American Steamship filed its lawsuit against Hallett Dock in September 2009 for, among other things, negligence and breach of contract after a large hidden underwater obstruction of concrete and rebar from a previously collapsed dock ripped a large hole in the McCarthy, a self-unloading dry bulk carrier, as it maneuvered into a Hallett Dock slip, causing the engine room to flood. The lawsuit sought to recover $4,682,322.55 in repair damages and lost business income during the time the McCarthy was out of service for repairs.

“We are very pleased that we were able to demonstrate that Hallett was negligent in failing to properly mark the slip with warning signs or buoys and by failing to properly inform the ship’s crew of the massive obstruction. Hallett had agreed to provide safe mooring and that did not happen. The evidence and the jury verdict show that Hallett Dock is 100 percent at fault,” said Mr. Reichert. “American Steamship is very pleased with the jury’s favorable verdict, and we will move to also recover prejudgment interest and other court allowed costs.”