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Title: Damage caused on ferry crossing

Date: 08 May 2013

Question

My friends and I were booked on the Troone to Larne P&O ferry on April 14th. But because the sea conditions in the Irish Sea were so bad that day we were transferred to the larger, more stable Cairnryan to Larne ferry. When we were on the car deck, one of the crew strapped down all the bikes using a single webbing strap over the saddle of each machine.

When we returned to our machines after the two-hour crossing my bike and the bike beside me had fallen over.

All they did was take some photos and our details, wrote down a list of damage and invited us to leave, even though one of the bikes was unrideable. All we were given was a business card for P&O’s insurers, which when we contacted them suggested initially we should raise a claim on our own insurance. Surely they are liable?

David McKane, Portadown

Answer

The starting point would be for you to look at the booking terms and condition/conditions of carriage which will surely set out how the ferry company conveys vehicles and where respective responsibilities lie. The terms are also likely to contain some sort of limitation of liability. I agree that the company was under a duty to take reasonable care and if they have breached that duty (which on the face of it appears to be the case) and the company cannot get around the face value breach by virtue of their terms of carriage (which are presumably deemed accepted on payment – but the terms themselves will confirm point of acceptance) then you would be entitled to recover the cost of repairs. Recently the small claims court limit has been increased to £10,000 from £5000 meaning that legal costs are not recoverable unless the loss exceeds £10,000.

I suspect that this may not be the case in your collective cases and as such it may not be worthwhile instructing a solicitor as the legal costs may well outweigh the loss. However you can pursue your claim yourself through the small claims court, probably best as a group action with the others whose bikes sustained damage. 

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