Mock trial: Negligence and the Titanic
Background and facts of the case
The plaintiff, Carla Jensen has brought up this negligence suit on her capacity as the executor in the Estate of Hans Jensen. The plaintiff has sued White Star Lines the owner of the Titanic ship based on the following facts. On April, 1912 R.M.S Titanic left Queens town, Ireland for New York City with 2,227 people aboard the ship. On the fateful day, the ship was commandeered by included Captain Smith, Second Officer Lightoller, Third Officer Herbert Pitman and Fourth Officer Boxhall.
Captain Smith completed his rounds and left the station to Second Officer Lightoller. It was reported that the Titanic ship hit an iceberg at 11:40 p.m as it soured through the coast of Newfoundland. Captain Smith checked with his colleagues about constant grinding and vibration. It is at that juncture that Fourth Officer Boxhall who told him that that “the water was up to F-Deck in the Mail Room.” Captain Smith commanded 2nd Officer Lightoller to start loading passengers starting with children and women into lifeboats. All along the plaintiff and other passengers heard the commotion and rushed upwards for safety. The crew used all the flare unsuccessfully. The titanic ship sank at 2:20 am killing 1,522 voyagers including Hans Jensen. The story seem true for most of the parts, however, it has not covered most of the parts in the Titanic disaster, for instance attempt by ship crews to contact the control center to send distress.
Plaintiff’s claim for negligence
The plaintiff sought general damages against the defendant. The claim for damages was as a result of death of Hans Jensen, pain and suffering, loss of income and emotional anguish that the deceased experienced. The learned attorney for the plaintiff submitted that White Star was grossly negligent and abrogated its duty to passengers. White Star owed a duty of reasonable care to the passengers. Considering that the plaintiff and the passengers contracted and paid White Star for the voyage it meant that the company would take reasonable precautions to ensure that the passengers arrive in New York safely. The defendant was expected to offer more care and attention on top of food, heat and shelter it provided.
The second element critical to proof of negligence is a demonstration that the defendant breached its duty of care and resulted to harm or risk on the plaintiff. The attorney emphasized that objective test be applied. The defendant did not take proper precautions to install modern equipment, ensuring that the life boat could be lowered faster, installing alarm in case of leak and that the captain and his team were asleep and could not see the iceberg. As such the defendant breached his duty of care.
The third element is on causation. Essentially the defendant’s negligence was reasonably foreseeable. The defendant breach of duty is the proximate cause and it were not for White Star omission or commissions the plaintiff and the other passengers could not have been harmed. Once it has been established that the defendant were negligent and indeed responsible the most sensible thing to do is to pray that the court grant damages appropriately. The onus is on the plaintiff to proof that he is entitled to the damages pleaded. In this case the attorney evidence that the plaintiff suffered immeasurably by the thought that he was going to die and the eventual death which lead to loss of income. The attorney also submitted on punitive damaged for failure to commandeer the ship safely.
White Star Defense to negligence
The attorney for the defendant made introductory remarks and argued that the defense will rely on three main defenses. First, is on the superseding cause. The defendant submitted that the plaintiff Mr. Jansen death was as a result of superseding cause. Irrespective of the cause of the accident whether natural or negligent what follows is important after the act. The attorney claimed that Hans Jansen behavior broke the causation between the negligent act and resulting injury. The defendant relied on the testimony of Second Officer Lightoller who cautioned the plaintiff against going down as he could not have helped the situation. The company presented the testimony of Lieutenant Bjornstrom-Steffansson who controlled the passengers and ensured that the board the lifeboats.
Secondly, the defendant alleged that the plaintiff assumed the risk by not staying on the lifeboat, that he was old enough to understand the danger of the situation and he voluntarily exposed himself to danger. Third, the defendant argued that the plaintiff contributed to his fate. He did not board the lifeboat. The attorney emphasized that even the slights percentage of contribution should bar the plaintiff from claiming against the defendant.
In a conclusion, as a juror in this case and having heard the parties, I would find for the defendant. The defendant’s through its crew took necessary measures to save the life of 705 passengers and the accident could not have been prevented. In fact the passengers unanimously decided that the women and children should first board the lifeboats.