Tugboats, including the T.J. Hooper (Defendants), towed coal barges (Plaintiffs) into a storm where the barges were lost. Like most other tugboats, the Defendants did not have working radios aboard to receive weather forecasts.
Even if taking a certain precaution isn’t an industry custom, defendants can still be found unseaworthy for failing to take it.
The T.J. Hooper and Montrose (Defendants) were tugboats that towed several coal barges (Plaintiffs). The tugboats sailed into a storm, leading to the loss of the coal barges. The Defendants did not have any working radios that would have told them about the incoming storm so they could change course. Plaintiffs sued for negligence.
Were the tugboats unseaworthy where they sailed without radios, even though there was no custom to have a radio?
Yes, the Court found the Defendants were unseaworthy without radios even though there was no custom to have radios. The Court affirmed the trial court’s decision.