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IN RE THEISEN

October 24, 1972

Application of Charles THEISEN, Sr., To Limit the Liability as Owner of an MF6 WESTFIELD FIBERGLASS MOTOR BOAT and/or Vessel, Bearing Registration No. N.Y. 0685DK for the Year 1970

Bruchhausen, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRUCHHAUSEN

BRUCHHAUSEN, District Judge.

The petitioner, Charles Theisen, Sr., instituted this proceeding, pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 183 et seq., for exoneration from or limitation of liability with respect to a claim for wrongful death as a result of an accident involving petitioner's vessel on August 16, 1970 in Moriches Inlet, Suffolk County, State of New York.

 It appears that on the day of the accident, the petitioner, Charles Theisen, Sr., was the owner of an outboard motor boat, registration No. N.Y. 0685DK/1970. Prior to the hearing herein, various allegations contained in the petition, were conceded by claimant. There were no concessions concerning the lack of privity or knowledge of the petitioner, as stated in paragraph 6. Thereafter the petitioner stated that a prima facie case was made and he rested.

 The claimant's theory of unseaworthiness was based on crew incompetence.

 The claimant called the petitioner as his first witness. He testified that he was the owner of the vessel in question and gave his son, Charles Theisen, Jr., permission to operate it and take on passengers. The latter operated the vessel approximately 90% of the time, and when this accident occurred on August 16, 1970, Charles, Jr. was 16 years of age. The petitioner further testified that his son received no formal training or Coast Guard courses concerning the operation of the said or any other vessel. The only training was supplied by the petitioner, an engineer, working with Brookhaven Laboratories. He also testified that he was aware of a prior accident in 1969 involving his son, Charles, Jr., who was operating the vessel when another passenger was thrown overboard. The petitioner did not know of nor did he inquire of others in the community concerning the reputation of his son regarding the operation of vessels. He knew that his son Charles, Jr., would operate the vessel into sharp zigzag patterns, usually for water skiing. Finally the whereabouts of his son Charles, Jr., is unknown to the petitioner, and he was not in court to testify.

 The second witness, John P. Sprague, 17 years of age, knew the petitioner's son, Charles, Jr., for 7 years. He stated that on one occasion, in September 1969 both he and Charles, Jr., were operating their boats and each boy would cut in front of the other, ride along, just goofing around, zigzagging, just kidding around. He considered Charles a good boatman.

 The third witness, Curt Frank Amende, Jr., now 19 years of age testified that in August of 1969 he was a passenger in a boat operated by Charles, Jr. At page 79, lines 4-9 he testified in part:

 
"Well, we went out into the bay and he, you know, he started to show me how his boat would handle and he started making real sharp turns and the boat would pitch up on its edge and almost -- just about almost turn over, but, you know, it was -- he would go into these wild corners, without really warning you."

 It was during one of these turns that the witness went overboard. The following year the witness was aboard the boat a second time, and testified at page 83, lines 3-4:

 
"Well, he did pretty much the same thing he did the previous year, never changed."

 Finally, he testified that the reputation of Charles, Jr., in the community is that of an unsafe driver.

 The fourth witness, Walter Gomes, Jr., testified that he was in the middle of the inlet waiting to be picked up after falling from a surf board. He observed an open boat coming around the bend about three-quarter throttle. The boat spun clock-wise and something fell out of the boat towards the passenger's right side. There was a lot of spray. A person removed his shirt and jumped into the water.

 The fifth witness, Don Edward Nezadel, testified he knew Charles, Jr. and his reputation as to operating a boat was not that good.

 The sixth witness, John Sprague, testified he was Commodore of a yacht club and was generally familiar with the waters of Moriches Inlet and furthermore, that other people have mentioned to him ...


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