Boatyard claims scuppered

Posted: 13th December 2012

Tug BoatIn the context of a £7 million settlement achieved by lawyers for a young man who suffered catastrophic injuries in an Isle of Wight boatyard accident, a High Court judge has ruled that the structure from which he fell was seriously defective and incapable of bearing the loads that were placed upon it.

The 21 year old worker was helping to store boats for a company in 2006 when he fell from an unstable loading gantry and a heavy metal grating fell onto his head causing irreparable brain damage. In January 2012, the company’s insurers settled his damages claim for £7,174,411.

In contribution proceedings, the company sued a number of individuals and companies involved in designing and constructing the gantry. It subsequently settled its claims against a design and build specialist and a structural engineering firm for £2 million and £1.8 million respectively.

The company also sought contributions from a self-employed steel erector, a company specialising in the fabrication of steelwork and a draughtsman who produced technical drawings for the structure. However, the Technology and Construction Court dismissed those claims, ruling that it had not been established that those three defendants had breached any relevant duty of care.

Mr Justice Akenhead stated that the gratings which formed the top of the structure had been 'seriously overloaded' on numerous occasions, were incapable of taking the loads of up to 1.5 tonnes required and had been bound to bend and distort sooner or later. The clips holding the gratings in place were inadequate for that task and the loadings used in the design of the structure were substantially less than those which could reasonably have been foreseen.