A class action lawsuit is an individual lawsuit, which has been brought on behalf of a group of individuals who are similarly situated to the plaintiff in the case. Class action lawsuits were very common in the United States prior to the passage of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Under the FDCPA, all collection efforts must be filed with those companies directly affected by the debt, unless the creditor can prove that the complaint would not have a significant adverse effect on the business. For example, an individual could bring a class action lawsuit against a bank for charging too high of a fee; however, if the bank could not prove that the individual would face a reduced rate of interest because of the bank’s policies, then the lawsuit would probably fail.
Harbor Freight LLC v. Richard E. Ellis, et al., Case Number: 3:15-cr-0005. The parties in this case were shipping company and their agent, Richard E. Ellis, who is a former regional vice president for National Tanker Company. The shipping company sought damages for injuries sustained to one of their seamen while working at their dock. The district court granted the motion for summary judgment, holding that there was no negligence on the part of the defendant in violation of the FDCPA. The court relied on its earlier decision in Consolidated Freight Income Corp. v. Peter J. Deutsch, holding that the shipping company did not create a clear and accurate understanding of federal maritime law, and therefore, a trier-of-times was not required in order for the case to survive.
Mr. Ellis was a vesselyard worker who suffered injuries as a result of being struck by a low-pressure shipping line. Mr. Ellis was not on the ship when the accident occurred, but was attempting to fix another vessel in the yard when the accident happened. Despite stating that he had never been on a ship before in his life, Mr. Ellis was nonetheless found liable for the accident due to the fact that he was operating within the confines of the company’s operations manual at the time. Mr. Ellis also had no training in boating safety and despite having numerous years of experience as a vesselbuilder, he did not have any training in working with large or heavy ships.
When the shipping company’s counsel attempted to argue that their client’s position regarding negligence was valid, a jury heard testimony from witnesses stating that Mr. Ellis knew the vessel in question was dangerous and was operating the vessel according to the company’s manual. The judge in the case ultimately sided with the plaintiffs, stating that the testimony provided by the witnesses was accurate. As a result of the verdict, Mr. Ellis was forced to pay the shipping company’s legal fees. An appeal of this decision was denied by the California Court of Appeal and the case went to trial.
The Harbor Freight Class Action Lawsuit Status remained active in the shipping industry until the late 1990’s, when the US House of Representatives voted to limit damages in cases involving defective products. Prior to this vote, suits could be brought forward in which the plaintiff was responsible for more than shipping injuries. The limitation placed on the damages allowed the shipping companies to avoid the risk of paying a large sum in a class action lawsuit. However, as the years passed and shipping accidents became less frequent, the US Congress felt it was necessary to revisit the issue of compensation to provide relief to those suffering injuries and those families who had lost loved ones because of these accidents.
To date, there has been no court ruling in relation to the Harbor Freight Class Action Lawsuit Status. However, one case was recently heard by the California Supreme Court. A group of relatives brought a lawsuit against cruise lines that were responsible for the death of their relative, stating that the negligent actions of the cruise liner resulted in her untimely death. This was the first time that a ship’s negligence resulted in a class action lawsuit. The court found in favor of the plaintiffs, allowing them to pursue a lawsuit against the cruise liner and ultimately force the company to pay for her death and medical expenses. This landmark ruling provides hope to those who have been injured or killed because of shipping defects.