The thriller “Captain Phillips”, which starred Tom Hanks, was released on Friday, October 12, 2013.
What most of the people who saw the movie do not know is that there is a major lawsuit circling around this event. The crew members of the Maersk Alabama filed the lawsuit against the company that owned the ship, claiming they were “steered into pirate-infested waters” near the Somali coast without any real protection. Their ship was attacked in 2009, leading to an epic standoff that ended when Navy SEAL snipers intervened. The lead pirate, Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, is currently serving a 33 year prison sentence in an Indiana prison.
Captain Richard Phillips (played by Tom Hanks) isn’t specifically named in the lawsuit, but the lawyer representing the nine crew members who are suing has made some sharp comments in the press suggesting the attack was his fault. He has an entire page on his Website called “Captain Phillips: The True Story” dedicated to arguing the movie is inaccurate. The page can be read at the following link: http://www.vbattorneys.com/practice_areas/captain-phillips-the-true-story.cfm.
One crew member, Jimmy Sabga, says the Captain was warned not to enter the pirate-infested waters. “Captain Phillips did not follow orders, the ship was attacked and he was responsible.” The attorney for the crew members, Brian Beckcom, states that proving Captain Phillips was negligent will bolster their claim.
The suit, which was originally filed in 2009, has been delayed by several Maersk legal filings. The case is scheduled to be heard in a Mobile, Alabama Court this December. A Maersk Line spokesman said related lawsuits brought by the crew “are without merit.”
The complaint alleges that the ship was not to go within AT LEAST 600 miles of the Somali border, and Captain Phillips was aware of this order. Despite these instructions, the Maersk Alabama did in fact come within 240 miles away from the Somali border at the time of the pirate boarding. Supposedly, Captain Phillips chose to go closer to the border to “stay on schedule.” The crew members claim they endured Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, sleep disorders, inconvenience, and humiliation. The entire complaint can be found here: http://www.vbattorneys.com/library/Alabama_Complaint.pdf.
Does the complaint have merit? Whose fault is it really? Is the shipping company vicariously liable for the actions of Captain Phillips, because he was acting within the scope of his employment? Can there be a lawsuit that has to do with the film itself being an inaccurate depiction?
Picture Source: Business Insider