28 January 2013

Liberia: Dead Maritime Cadets Case Opens For Trial -More Lawyers Join on Family Side

The trial opens tomorrow at the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court at the Temple of Justice in the case brought against the Liberia Maritime Authority by lawyers representing families of four dead cadets of the Authority. The trial grows out of the action of damages for wrongful death instituted by the relatives, principally represented by Heritage and Partners, a local law firm against the Liberia Maritime Authority as first defendant, and Fred Bass Golokeh, Jr and Kou Joseph as second and third defendants respectively.

Lawyers representing the family, led by Cllr T. Negbalee Warner are citing negligence on the part of the Maritime Authority for the death of the cadets.

Three prominent lawyers, including law professor, Cyril Jones have joined the case on the side of the families.

Court records including pleadings obtained by this paper are rich with arguments about the weight of liability the Plaintiff`s lawyers are pushing against the defendants.

Plaintiff argues that count 21 of defendants` Answer stating that the Maritime cadet training ended at 9am on September 27, 2012, and that the 'cadets died at 9am while engaged in an inherently dangerous activity in rough sea waters during adverse weathers supports one factual conclusion that training on that day was conducted in rough sea waters during adverse conditions, which was evidently negligent.

The lawyers further contend that the cadets died within the training period under the supervision of the Liberia Maritime Authority hired supervisor, especially in light of the 'admission of defendants' that the cadets had not had prior training in swimming and that there was no safety gears. This the plaintiff lawyers held supports their theory that the LMA bore the responsibility of the attending consequences on the basis of its negligence to exercise due care. Maritime Authority lawyers reject this conclusion, stating that the trainees died while on their own.

Maritime Authority lawyers are also contending that the cadets had signed waivers, discharging the authority of any liabilities for their death before embarking on the swimming, but plaintiff countered that under the Private Wrong Laws of Liberia, the action for damages for wrongful death does not belong to the dead person, but to the dependents and family members who suffer loss of support, companionship, protection and affection.

Plaintiffs also cited the labor laws of Liberia which recognizes that an employee who suffers injury or disease as a consequence of his employment shall be entitled to compensation during his disability.

Decedent`s Information form from the St. Moses Funeral Parlors in the possession of this paper established the evidence that the Maritime Authority took the bodies of the cadets and paid the cost for the remains to be preserved at the funeral parlours.

Maritime Employee, John Emmett Quawah who signed the form authorized St. Moses to preserve the cadets' remains pending funeral arrangements.

The Maritime Cadet case has been a dragging controversy since September when the cadets` bodies were discovered. Maritime officials had restricted family access to the bodies and there were talks of reaching settlement for compensation, but it appears now that all hopes hinge on the courts.

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