Tuesday, March 28, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Ship Owner on the Hook for Captain’s Beating

TEXARKANA, Texas (CN) - A ship owner is liable for the injuries of a captain who was beaten by his mutinous crew, the 6th Appellate District of Texas ruled.

Capt. Bobby Roberts Jr. had problems as soon as he stepped aboard the Iberville. He was responsible for stopping the drug use, drinking and fighting that had been reported among the crew.

The previous captain, Jay Heater, remained on the crew and constantly challenged Roberts' authority.

On one occasion, Roberts retreated to a locked room after a crew member threatened him with a knife. Heater unlocked the door, allowing four crew members to pound Roberts mercilessly. Roberts finally escaped with severe injuries, but his supervisor did not allow him to see a doctor for two more days.

Roberts' employer tried to introduce jury instructions regarding the foreseeability of Roberts' injuries and the savage disposition of the crew. Judge Moseley agreed with the trial court that those instructions would not be appropriate, because supervisor Rodney Abshire's actions led to the assault.

"By not removing unruly crew members, (including Heater, after he proclaimed in Abshire's presence that Roberts was not the captain)," Moseley wrote, "the jury could have found that Abshire, Roberts' superior, breached a fundamental duty ... in failing to provide for Roberts' safety."

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.