Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Help Me Howard: Boat
A boat broke loose during wilma and damaged her dock. But the owner and his insurance company are refusing to pay for the damages. Do they have to? Help Me Howard is on board with the answers. Here's the Night Team's Patrick Fraser.
WSVN--Living on the water can be very relaxing and soothing.
Sue Nesbit: "I love living on the water."
Sue Nesbit: "Until we have hurricanes."
And then living on the water can get a little nerve wracking. During hurricane Wilma it was for Sue.
Sue Nesbit: "I got a phone call at approximately seven o'clock in the morning saying a boat had broken loose down the canal and it was coming towards me."
Not just any boat slamming from dock to dock.
This two million dollar 65-foot yacht.
Which wound up crashing into Sue's dock.
Sue Nesbit: "Apparently it had landed against the dock and it kept banging and banging and banging and broke off the piling."
Fortunately, a neighbor was able to tie it off before the boat damaged itself or other boats on the canal.
Sue Nesbit: "This piling was completely broken off."
But by then, the yacht had snapped Sue's piling -- ripped out part of her dock, dumping it in the canal -- and tore out the electrical system. The repair bill will be steep.
Sue Nesbit: "Approximately 18,000 dollars."
So after Wilma passed by, Sue called the boats owner who was out of town.
Sue Nesbit: "He would be down in a few weeks to secure his boat and would I mind securing his boat at my dock until that time that he could get here. Which we did."
That was nice of Sue to do, and when the owner showed up, he showed his gratitude by cranking up his boat telling Sue thanks, and in effect, tough luck.
Sue Nesbit: "And told me to contact his insurance company."
Sue did and I don't have to tell you what it's like to file a claim with an insurance company after a hurricane.
Sue Nesbit: "The insurance company said that they were not liable for anything done during the storm because it was an act of God."
Sue was stunned.
Sue Nesbit: "I'm a widow. I feel that these people that have these large boats and particular the people that are renting their docks up and down these canals should be liable for the damages."
And sue says its not like the boat owner can't afford to pay the damage his boat caused.
Sue Nesbit: "It was a two million dollar boat."
Wondering if the boat owner and insurance company are right, Sue called Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "The insurance company is dead wrong. Maritime Law clearly says if someone voluntarily and successfully saves someone's boat during a storm they are entitled to reasonable compensation for their services."
Since the insurance company refused to negotiate, Sue hired an attorney who has now filed suit in federal court to take the boat away from the owner.
Howard says that's a smart move.
Howard Finkelstein: "In Maritime Law, you have a right to take custody of the boat to insure that your claim is properly paid. Since Sue and her neighbor saved the boat, a judge could award them a portion of the boat's two million dollar value for their efforts. An insurance company is not likely to risk a large settlement award and will probably now be more willing to pay for the damages."
Sue doesn't feel she is asking too much. She did the yacht owner a favor. It's time for him to repay her.
Howard Finkelstein: "I'm not asking for the world. I just want my property put back so I can enjoy my beautiful home on the water."
Patrick Fraser: "Now more proof the law is never clear. If you don't properly secure your boat before a storm and it causes damage you're probably responsible. But if you do properly secure it then you are not responsible. Who decides if it was properly secured? A judge, which is why law schools keep turning out lawyers.
A stormy mess about to sink you? Stop crashing and bashing around. Contact us. We'll try to toss you a lifeline right away.
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