February 18th, 2006 06:19 EST
Insurance firms to U.S. Coast Coast: We plan to sue
Although it has been nearly two years since the tragic accident at the Harbor in 2004, a lawsuit is in the works. The two insurance firms representing the company whose water taxi overturned in Baltimore's Inner Harbor in 2004, killing five people, plan to sue the U.S. Coast Guard on Feb. 17, alleging that it certified the water taxi for too many passengers.
The companies paid confidential settlements to the victims on board the Lady D. It was said to have overturned, or capsized, after a storm developed between Fort Henry and Fells Point. The insurance companies say that the vessel was not properly tested by the Coast Guard for stability before it was approved for use. The lawsuit will bring out the fact that it should never have been allowed to carry 25 people.
Attention could be shifted from Francis Deppner, the captain, if the lawsuit is successful. Deppner received a lot of flack after he casted off despite heavy winds, dark clouds, and lightning.
The Coast Guard is required to inspect, certify, and regulate boats constructed in the U.S., which includes conducting stability tests to determine a safe capacity. Attorneys representing the insurance companies state that the vessel was never tested and that the ship tested as its sister ship was a pontoon boat named Fells Point Princess and significantly different. It is said that these tests can be waived if a sister ship has been tested.
Also alleged: the Coast Guard miscalculated weight restrictions based on mono-hull vessels, even though both boats have pontoons- an important desigrn difference.
The announcement of this lawsuit comes weeks before the National Transportation Safety Board is expected to conclude its investigation into the accident.
The NTSB concluded that the Coast Guard's "inadequate and cursory" inspection was a contributing factor.