Strachan v. The “Constant Craving” et al.

In Miscellaneous Maritime Law Topics on (Updated )

This was an action by the Plaintiffs against the Defendants in negligence for damage caused to the Plaintiffs’ vessel when the Defendant’s vessel caught fire. The Plaintiffs established through expert evidence that the cause of the fire was the ignition of gas fumes in the Defendant’s vessel. The source of the fumes was a rusted gas tank and the source of the ignition was an automotive battery charger. The Court considered the application of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine but concluded that the issue of the Defendant’s negligence had to be determined on the evidence. The Court, however, had little difficulty in concluding the Defendant was negligent. On the issue of damages the Court held that the Plaintiffs were entitled to recover both the cost of repairs and the diminution in value of their vessel. Additionally, the Court awarded the Plaintiffs $1,500 each in damages for loss of use of their vessel. Finally, the Court considered whether the collateral benefit rule ought to apply to reduce the Plaintiffs’ damages. This was an issue because the repair costs were initially paid by the Plaintiffs’ insurer but, in subsequent proceedings between the insurers and the Plaintiffs, the insurers relinquished their right of subrogation. Thus, the Plaintiffs stood to be reimbursed twice for the cost of repairs. The Court held that this was a matter of private insurance which was a recognized exception to the collateral benefit rule.