Baltimore Says Dali Owners’ Negligence Caused Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse

Nathan Howard/Reuters
Nathan Howard/Reuters

The companies that own and operate the cargo ship that destroyed the Francis Scott Key Bridge last month were negligent and should be held legally liable for the disaster, the City of Baltimore argued in a legal filing Monday.

The Singapore-based firms said in their own filing last month that the March 26 bridge collapse—in which six construction workers were killed—was not “due to any fault, neglect, or want of care” on their part and asked a federal judge to impose a limit on their legal liability. Now lawyers for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and the City Council have hit back, arguing that the companies should be liable for whatever damages may be awarded in a jury trial.

Fourth Body Recovered After Baltimore Bridge Collapse

Grace Ocean, the Dali’s owner, and Synergy Marine, the vessel’s manager, had sought to limit their liability to around $43.7 million—the approximate total value of the vessel and its cargo at the time of the crash after deducting the costs of damages and repair work.

The city instead argued no such limit should granted, claiming that the “direct and proximate cause” of the crash was the companies’ “carelessness, negligence, gross negligence, and recklessness, and as a result of the unseaworthiness of the vessel.”

Saying the firms “should be held to account,” the city’s attorneys wrote: “For all intents and purposes, petitioners’ negligence caused them to destroy the Key Bridge, and singlehandedly shut down the Port of Baltimore, a source of jobs, municipal revenue, and no small amount of pride for the City of Baltimore and its residents.”

The lawyers said the Dali left port in a “clearly unseaworthy condition,” citing a report that alarms had sounded on some of its refrigerated containers in the hours before it set sail. An unnamed source told the Associated Press that the alarms indicated that the vessel was experiencing apparent electrical problems before leaving port.

The owner and operator had also staffed the Dali “with an incompetent crew that was inattentive to its duties,” the city alleged, claiming the workers “lacked proper skill” and “lacked proper training.”

“The impact of this disaster will be felt for years, and indeed, for the rest of the lives of the families of the people killed as a result of petitioners’ conduct,” the filing added.

Darrell Wilson, a representative for Synergy Marine and Grace Ocean, told CNN on Monday that “out of respect for the ongoing investigations and any future legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

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