Jurors Find Maritime Liable…Impose Fine For Damages

Empanelled jurors in the case of Wrongful deaths filed in favor of the four Maritime cadets who died at sea since September 27, 2012 have found the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA) liable and has imposed a fine of three million US dollars for special and general damages and USD 15,000 as punitive damages.

The unanimous verdict of the jury comprising of mainly university students yesterday was jointly served on the defendants and co-defendants in the Sixth Judicial Civil Law Court of Montserrado County followed by arguments from plaintiffs and the defense lawyers backed by a guided but splendid charge from the presiding judge, Boima Kontoe.

The argument of the defense bordered on whether or not the LiMA should be held liable for the deaths of the cadets and why should the government’s coffers be raided of over 2 million as was earlier requested by the deceased families, apparently a request which ended the marriage between the LiMA management and the bereaved families thus leading the latter to seek justice at the court.

The defense lawyers’ argument also spoke of the plaintiff’s witnesses misleading the court with lies even though they admitted to providing witnesses whose testimonies were not similarly different from that of the plaintiffs except that they held the belief that the plaintiff’s witnesses did help in placing their evidences squarely in order for the LiMA to have a win in the matter.

In the plaintiff’s argument, the defense witnesses were also accused of telling lies throughout in their testimonies and that the co-defendants, supervisor of the Search and Rescue section, Fred Bass Golokeh, Jr. made three times in salary the amount provided a cadet by the LiMA failed to secure their safety while the training director Kou Joseph did put the cadets in harm’s way.

The plaintiff further accused the management and head of the LIMA, Binyah Kesselly of proving negligence by their action of not paying keen interest or attending court to witness the proceedings. However, as usual, the defense lawyers excepted and informed the court that they will take advantage of the statues as provided for under the law.

The court is expected to give its final ruling based on the law into the matter soon as the jury verdict only covers the fact.

Last year, the plaintiff filed a complaint which covered special and general damages in the tune of US$2.01 millions as well as punitive damages of US$1.0 millions against the Liberia Maritime Authority through its Commissioner Kesselly; Mr. Bass Golokeh, Jr. and Ms. Joseph.

Facts enlisted in the complainant’s trial memorandum alleged that the cadets were ordered, obliged and requested by the defendants to travel to Musa Beach early on the morning of September 27, 2012 to continue their training and did swim in the Atlantic ocean.

The complainants further informed the court that the acts of the defendants in requiring, encouraging and assisting the cadets to swim in the deep sea when they had not been taught swimming and in the absence of the appropriate safety gears was grossly a neglect which caused the deaths of the four men.

The plaintiffs who had the burden to prove their case beyond all doubts, principally focused their evidences and testimonies on the venue of the training of the cadets on the dates and time of deaths; efforts made to have them rescued as well as the time that the call for help was made to the Coast Guard and who is to be held liable in such matter when the cadets were in the employ of the Authority; C. Winnie Saywah reports.

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