A Seaport man who crashed his boat into a 40-foot-high marker in Boston Harbor in July, forcing him and his passengers into the water, where one drowned, is asking a federal judge to limit how much he can be forced to pay out for any lawsuits because, he claims, it's not his fault he plowed into the large fixed structure late one night.
In a filing in Boston federal court today, Ryan Denver, owner of the Make It Go Away, invoked a federal law dating to 1851 and originally meant to deal with storms and pirates, that limits the amounts one can sue a ship owner for to the value of the ship itself - if the owner can prove a crash was totally beyond his control.
In this case, if Denver gets the formal injunction he seeks, that would be a total of just $50,000 - all that he says the 38-foot triple-motor Pursuit DC 365 he bought new this year is now worth. Denver did not specify how much he spent on the boat, but the manufacturer lists a starting price of $620,255.
Success in the federal action will not shield Denver from trial in Suffolk Superior Court on criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter, three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury and two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, for the collision that left Jeanica Julce dead from drowning and other passengers injured after they all jumped into Boston Harbor around 2:50 a.m. on July 17.
In his federal filing, Denver said it's not his fault he had an "allision" - the nautical term for a boat crashing into a fixed object - and that Julce might have lived if not for the cowardice or sadism of another boat captain out on the water then.
Denver began his explanation of why he's not at fault for hitting the large steel structure by saying his navigational logs show that on the return trip from Quincy to Boston, he was following the same path in reverse that he took earlier from Boston to Quincy - when he did not hit Daymarker 5.
Daymarker 5 is a permanently fixed 40-foot-high steel structure between Castle Island and Spectacle Island topped with a flashing green light that helps larger craft stay in an assigned channel in the Harbor.
Limitations Plaintiff was unable to avoid the allision by the time Daymarker No. 5 came into sight; despite being on the same track line as his earlier outbound trip.
Denver continued that the marker is not painted near the water line to be reflective at night and that two ships dredging Boston Harbor at the time were shining bright lights that obscured the flashing green light. Also, as his lawyers write in a related filing, he was driving the boat in "a proper manner and at an appropriate speed."
Denver says that after the "allision" and as the boat sank, he and the other seven people on board jumped into the water, and that he and another passenger who could swim did what they could to keep the remaining passengers together.
Another boat, which Denver could not identify, approached, and the group began moving towards it, expecting to be helped out of the water, his filing continues. But then:
Without notice, the Unidentified Vessel departed the scene and failed to provide any assistance to the eight (8) people in the water, including Jeanica Julce who drowned at some point after the Unidentified Vessel departed.
The two passengers on the Unidentified Vessel were heard yelling at its operator as he left the scene: "What the hell are you doing?"
And so, he claims:
The July 17, 2021, accident with the Vessel and any and all injuries, damages, and losses claimed to have resulted from it were not caused by a breach of applicable statutes or regulations, or any type of unseaworthiness, intentional fault, neglect, lack of reasonable care, or liability by or on the part of Limitation Plaintiff or the Vessel.