Floating Casino Faces Trial on Hurricane Crash

     (CN) – A jury should decide whether a Gulf Coast casino barge that smashed into a hotel during Hurricane Katrina was negligent, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled.
     The President Casino barge was moored in the Broadwater Beach Marina in Biloxi until its employees and customers were evacuated before Katrina hit in August 2005.
     As the storm surge rose to 25 feet above sea level, the barge came loose from its moorings and floated for a mile before smashing into the main building of Biloxi Beachfront Hotel.
     Eli Investments, the owner of the hotel, sued casino owners Silver Slipper Casino Venture and Silver Slipper Gambling, as well as marina owner Broadwater Development, for negligence and gross negligent conduct.
     Eli claimed the casino owners failed to maintain the barge properly before and during the hurricane. It also claimed that Broadwater did not properly maintain the dock site and mooring system.
     A Harrison County judge granted Silver Slipper summary judgment, saying it had complied with the regulations of the Gaming Commission and that the hurricane was an “Act of God, unforeseeable in the fury and destruction it caused.”
     Eli appealed its case against Silver Slipper to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which ruled that the testimony of Eli’s expert regarding the mooring system created enough of an issue of fact to defeat Silver Slipper’s motion for summary judgment.
     “If a jury finds that Silver Slipper, through the exercise of reasonable care, could have prevented the damage to Eli’s property, the Act of God defense will not apply,” Chief Justice William Waller wrote for the court’s behalf.

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