Begum v Maran (UK) Ltd  EWCA Civ 326
In August 2020 we reported that the High Court refused to strike out a claim for negligence brought by the widow of a deceased shipbreaker against the former owners and managing agents of the vessel concerned. That decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal who have upheld the earlier decision of the High Court. The next step is for the widow’s claim to be dealt with in the High Court.
The Court of Appeal’s comments are worth reading. They confirm that the widow’s claim could not be dismissed as “fanciful”, that this was not a case where there was no realistic prospect of success and that it was arguable that the ship owners had a “duty of care” to the deceased worker.
This decision turns all eyes back to the High Court. If the case is not settled then the Court’s judgment could have huge ramifications for ship owners and operators. It could effectively make them responsible for the consequences of the decisions they take on scrapping and encourage them to boycott shipbreakers who do not uphold those standards and/or insist on indemnities in sale contracts which may eventually lead to scrapping.
We expect that this case could attract substantial press coverage. If the claim is successful then it could pave the way for other similar claims. The health and safety issues associated with ship recycling in India and Bangladesh are well known. One can see the moral case for persuading ship owners to demand better standards but the ramifications of extending the range and extent of a ship owner’s duty of care would be significant.
A full copy of the Court of Appeal judgment can be read here.