Vukorep v. Bartulin

In Limitation of Liability in Maritime Law on (Updated )

In July 1998 the Plaintiff was injured on board the Defendant’s pleasure craft when the vessel hit a wave from a passing ferry. At the time of the accident the vessel was being operated by the Defendant who was also the owner. The Defendant brought this application for a determination of whether he could limit his liability pursuant to s. 575 of the Canada Shipping Act. The trial Judge dismissed the application on the grounds that the Defendant failed in his capacity as owner to install after market handholds for passengers and that this brought the Plaintiff’s injury within his “actual fault or privity” as owner. On appeal, the British Columbia Court of Appeal held that the trial Judge had erred by not considering whether the absence of handholds rendered the pleasure craft unseaworthy. The Court found as a fact that the installation of such handholds is not a common practice and accordingly held that the vessel was seaworthy. In the result, the appeal was allowed and the Defendant was entitled to limit his liability. (Note: The limitation provisions considered in this case were based on the 1957 Limitation Convention which was replaced in Canada on 10 August 1998 by Part 3 of the Marine Liability Act. The new provisions are based on the 1976 Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims and the 1996 Protocol.)