As reported by The Waterways Journal, a recent federal court ruling limits the scope of maritime-related product liability claims. In the case of Ortega Garcia v. United States, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that under maritime law only end users and intended customers are covered by product liability protections, not bystanders. Here, our Houston, TX maritime lawyers highlight the most important things you need to know about the court’s decision and explain the implications.
Case Analysis: Garcia v. Ortega Garcia v. United States
Background and Facts
While on patrol near Brownsville, Texas, a United States Coast Guard (USCG) vessel struck and killed a woman who was swimming across a shipping channel. According to court records, the woman, a Mexican national, was attempting to immigrate to the United States. A representative of her family filed a wrongful death claim on the grounds of negligence and product liability. Among other legal claims, her heirs argued that the design of the vessel was defective because it made it too difficult for crewmembers to see what was in front of them.
The Decision of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal
The courts separated the product liability from all other legal claims being pursued by the family. On review, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the product liability lawsuit. The claim, which was filed against a Washington based manufacturing company called Safe Boats International LLC, was thrown out on the grounds that the family did not have standing to sue.
In these circumstances, the victim was a “bystander”—meaning she had no direct legal relationship with the vessel’s manufacturer. The appeals court ruled that under maritime law, a bystander does not have a product liability claim. Only customers and other end-users have the standing to bring a product liability suit against a vessel’s manufacturer.
The Implications of the Ruling
The specific facts in this case are unique—so much so, that the appeals court noted that it was ruling on a “case of first impression.” As defined by the Cornell Legal Information Institute, a case of first impression is one that presents a legal issue that has not yet been decided in a particular jurisdiction. Nonetheless, this decision could have important implications for other product liability claims brought under U.S. maritime law. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has narrowed the parties that have standing to file a lawsuit.
Call Our Texas Maritime Lawyers for Immediate Legal Help
At the Kolodny Law Firm, our Texas maritime law attorneys are strong and justice-driven advocates for injured victims and their families. Your rights matter. Our law firm will take aggressive action to get you and your loved ones full financial compensation. If you have any questions about maritime law and product liability claims, we will get you answers. Contact our team right away to get your free, no commitment case review. From our legal office in Houston, we handle maritime law claims throughout Texas.