THE ADVOCATE BoatU.S. CONSUMER PROTECTION BUREAU BY CAROLINE AJOOTIAN
LIABILITY, A MARINA HOT POTATO?
If you assume that the marina will pay for the damages,
you may be in for a shock
CONSIDER THESE THREE SCENARIOS … n The mechanic who works at your marina test drives your boat following engine repairs. Something goes wrong, he loses control, and the boat causes — and sustains — considerable damage when it bounces off another vessel and hits a dock.
n Partygoers on another boat wreak havoc at your marina, vandalizing several
vessels, including yours. The marina’s security guard failed to stop the mayhem.
n The dockhand your marina hired for the summer fills your boat’s gas tank
with water — and vice versa.
More and more, marina contracts include phrases such as, “The boat owner fully agrees and
releases the marina from any liability for loss or damage to the boat, under any circumstance,
including any negligent acts or omissions by the marina or its personnel.” Besides shielding
marinas and their insurers from having to dig
deep to pay settlements for losses and damages, marinas can save considerable dollars
by having customers sign “hold-harmless”
clauses in rental agreements. These policies
often have large deductibles and the premiums are going up every year.
The sluggish economy has put a sharper
focus on the bottom line and businesses are
understandably trying to keep costs down,
but it’s often at the expense of consumers,
their customers. Consumers who agree to
hold-harmless clauses can find themselves
between a rock and a hard place: a marina
absolved of responsibility on one hand and
their own insurance company that refuses to
pay out claims on the other, because these
clauses are often in conflict with the boat
owner’s insurance policy.
With less protection from the marinas,
can boat owners expect slip fees to go down?
No. Marina customers find themselves in
basically the same position as airline customers: The peanut packets are smaller and
there’s a lot less leg room, but ticket prices
and baggage-handling costs are higher.
In addition, “marinas are increasingly
asking to be added to the individual boat
owner’s policy as an additional insured,”
explains Carroll Robertson, senior vice president of BoatU.S. Marine Insurance Claims.
Besides reducing the cost of the marina’s
insurance, claims paid due to the marina’s
negligence become part of the boat owner’s
claims history, not the marina’s, and can
potentially drive up the consumer’s insurance premiums.
“Some of the ‘additional insured’
requirements are pretty broad,” Robertson
said. “Just last week, we spoke with two
BoatU.S. insured members, one in California
and the other in Florida, whose marinas had