News date: 26 September 2022
The team of Odesa Office of Ilyashev & Partners Law Firm defended the interests of a large German shipowner and the Norwegian Shipowners Protection and Indemnity insurance Club (P&I Club), member of The International Group of P&I Clubs, in a dispute over maritime claims related to the death of seafarers while employed on foreign-flagged ships.
Almost at once two tragic incidents with a difference of several weeks happened on the vessels of the German shipowner. Under the extremely strange and controversial circumstances, two senior officers – a chief officer and a chief engineer – went missing overboard the vessel in the high sealeading to their death. Investigations carried out by the company, the flag administration and law enforcement authorities at the ports of call revealed no signs of third-party violence. At the same time, the attorneys of Odesa Office of Ilyashev & Partners Law Firm conducted their own comprehensive investigation, based on the testimony of the crew members, the conduct of the deceased in their lifetime, employment history, the situation at the place of incidents, the relationship of the deceased with other crew members and in their families, as well as several other significant factors and circumstances. The attorneys studied several versions of the causes of both seafarers’ deaths, compared all the facts and being guided by the balance of probabilities principle, concluded that the cause of both tragic cases was suicide, which excludes the Shipowners’ liability to pay contractual compensation in favor of the Next of Kin nominated by the deceased.
Maritime lawyers defending the families’ interests strongly denied the suicide version, as there were neither eyewitnesses to the fatal jumps nor suicide notes, which are usually considered as indisputable evidence of suicide. The attorneys of Odesa Office of Ilyashev & Partners held several rounds of complex negotiations and convinced the families that there were no prospects for pursuing the claims, considering the results of attorney’s investigation. Nevertheless, the Shipowner and the P&I Club, upon consultation with attorneys and willing to support the families financially, have offered a fair amount of voluntary payment as full and final settlement of all claims whatsoever nature. The proposed amount was much less than the contractual one, but it was accepted by the families of the deceased seafarers.
Another challenge for the attorneys was the execution of a Receipt and Release Statements notarized, since one of the families was not able to leave the temporarily occupied Kherson City. Despite the city’s temporary occupation, lack of mobile communication and stable Internet, closing the notary offices in the city, the attorneys of Odesa Office of Ilyashev & Partners still managed to arrange signing and safe receipt of a statement properly signed that should protect the Shipowner and P&I Club from possible future claims. Both families received their due payments immediately once the statements were signed and thus both claims were settled successfully.