With fourteen years of legal seas under this hull, I've developed a sense as to some behaviors which I believe may invite lawsuits. These observations are personal to me and you may disagree.
1. Ignore a claim. It's like that rain dance, they did it once and the claim went away, but that doesn't mean ignoring claims is a good practice. The problem is that ignoring a claim robs you of an opportunity to fully understand the claim and the opportunity to head it off before a lawsuit is filed.
2. Allow passion to trump clinical analysis. I know, you hate that joker, but that doesn't mean his claim is pot. The problem is that the joker may have a good claim and it might get better if he files a lawsuit.
3. Fail to Settle. Yup, you've got to know when to fold them as Kenny tells us. The problem is that failing to agree to a nominal settlement might result in a protracted and expensive litigation. (I'm not saying every claim, but if it was me, I'd make darn sure it's an office-wide consensus before taking a no-pay approach.)
4. Rudeness. On a lot of occasions, when maritime injuries or property damage occurs, it's in the midst of all parties working toward some common goal be it a tug and tow, cargo carriage, etc. The problem is that when a claim floats in, folks sometimes forget that they were once on the same team and rudeness sneaks into the negotiations. Business is all about relationships and relationships are burnt with rudeness and burnt relationships are litigated.
5. Lack of Preventative Maintenance. That's a phrase I don't hear much outside the repair yard. I'm using it in the broad context of maintaining your contracts, your employee relationships, and your vessels and equipment. The problem is that sloppy paperwork, unappreciated employees, and poorly maintained vessels are akin to asking the courthouse to keep the light on for you 'cause someone's definitely going to be filing a lawsuit.
Look, they're lots of things that drive lawsuits and these are but five examples of some circumstances wherein you might argue that the opportunity to avoid litigation was lost. On the other hand, litigation does keep us admiralty attorneys busy!
Underway and making way.
By John Fulweiler
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