CBS News Interviews Cory Itkin & Families of USS McCain Crew
Last August, the USS John McCain lost steering and veered into the path of a merchant tanker, the Alnic, off the coast of Singapore. The collision between the two ships led to the deaths of 10 US sailors. Now, the sailors' families are taking legal action against the tanker ship that killed their loved ones.
What has complicated the situation is the release of two reports, each of which finds fault with a different ship. The Navy report points out what the McCain crew could have done to prevent the collision, but a Singapore report finds fault with the Alnic. Each of the families, uncomfortable with suing the institution to which their loved ones dedicated their lives, are going forward with holding the Alnic accountable for its role in the tanker accident.
Our own Attorney Cory Itkin represents 9 of the 10 families in the lawsuit against the Alnic. Regarding the dueling reports, he says "Whenever you have an incident like this, there's accountability on both sides." Regarding the Navy, he also makes an important point: the Navy isn't trying to pin the blame on themselves—they're trying to make sure their practices prevent this from ever happening again. They're doing what they're supposed to be doing to ensure safer seas. It's their job.
The Singapore report revealed that the Alnic was on autopilot while in a crowded shipping area, a clear violation of good practice. However, Mr. Itkin and the 10 families would need to prove more than that—they would need to prove that the Alnic's management was at fault. Unfortunately, like any merchant ship caught in the act of negligence, the Alnic isn't trying to dispute their fault—they're trying to protect it using an antiquated law.
The Return of the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851
The Limitation of Liability Act is a law that allows merchant shipowners to limit their total liability in the event of an accident to the worth of the ship. The law was created in a world where America needed to stimulate the sea trade—where shipowners had access to less information and technology than they do today. That doesn't keep multibillion-dollar corporations from using it to protect themselves from litigation and to delay the relief of grieving families.
Visit our info page to learn more about the Limitation of Liability Act.
The owners of the Alnic are asking the federal court to relieve them of liability entirely—but failing that, they want to limit the total relief for the 10 families to $16.7 million. Here's the infuriating part: $16.7 million is the total worth after the collision.
Arnold & Itkin has been up against this law before—TOTE Maritime used it to protect themselves from liability after the sinking of the El Faro in 2015. Our maritime law firm has advocated for the rewriting or repealing of the law, as its sole use these days is to insult families who have lost their loved ones to unnecessary accidents at sea. We've witnessed it firsthand before, and now the Alnic is using the exact same playbook.
Watch the interview with Cory Itkin and the parents of the deceased sailors on the CBS News website.