Sutton v. Petman

In Collisions and Ships on (Updated )

This was a motion to dismiss a Third Party action. The matter arose out of a fatal collision between two pleasure craft. One vessel was owned by the Third Party but had been loaned to, and was being operated by, the Third Party’s son at the time of the accident. The Defendant, the owner and operator of the second vessel, commenced Third Party proceedings against the owner of the first vessel. The Court dismissed the Third Party action. It was conceded that the Third Party could not be held liable by mere reason of ownership of the vessel (as in an automobile case) but that the Defendant had to show a cause of action and evidence in support. The Court further held that the Third Party could not be held liable under the doctrine of vicarious liability as the Third Party had given possession of the vessel to his son and did not exercise any operational control thereafter. The only basis upon which the Third Party could be held liable was in negligence. The Defendant relied on the fact that the collision occurred at or near dusk and that the lights on the Third Party’s boat were not operational. The Court, however, found that the Third Party was not aware the vessel would be operated at night and was not aware the lights were not working. The Court further held that there was no requirement that a boat owner periodically check the operation of the lights when it was not intended to use the boat at night.