Deep Sea Terminal Negligent After Failing To Warn User Of Automated Gangway

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding Prince Rupert Grain Ltd. (PRG), who operated a deep sea terminal, negligent for failing to meaningfully warn the Plaintiff about an automated gangway.
In the recent case (Ranjabar v. Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines) the Plaintiff was a cook on a foreign commercial vessel.  It docked at the Defendants deep sea terminal.  After a brief time at shore, as the Plaintiff was attempting to board the vessel, the automated gangway lifted and the Plaintiff fell onto the ship below fracturing his femur.
The Defendant PRG was found liable with the court finding the gangway was “both unusual and dangerous“.  The court noted that the English language warning signs were insufficient notice of this danger in the circumstances where occupants of foreign vessels were expected to encounter it.
At paragraphs 81-101 the Court sets out a lengthy list of applicable legal principles in occupiers liability cases concerning the use of a gangway.  In finding PRG liable Madam Justice Dillon provided the following reasons:
[104]     Did the gangway pose an unusual danger? Yes, it did. The automatic gangway was both unusual and dangerous. It was unusual because none of the seamen who testified, including Ranjbar, Salmannia and Malayeri, had ever seen such a gangway in all of their combined years at sea around the world. Usually, a ship (and certainly the Iran Mazandaran) used its own gangway to access a terminal. Usually, it was continuously monitored and operated manually. Based upon this evidence, it is concluded that the average crew member would not have expected the gangway to rise automatically, especially with someone on it. Salmannia thought that “automatic” meant that the ladder remained at all times on the ship deck. The alarm cycle and sequence before lifting of the gangway was both unusual and dangerous if not known. None of PRG’s personnel who testified could interpret the record of the alarm sequence exactly and could not explain why or when the sequence was altered from the original operations manual. It was not obviously visually apparent to either Ranjbar or to Salmannia that the gangway automatically lifted…
[107]     PRG acknowledged this danger by placing the signs and using the horn to warn of danger from movement of the automatic gangway if someone was on it. Whether they were adequate is another question. The assistant maintenance superintendent for the terminal admitted that the gangway was dangerous, especially if one was on the ladder when it lifted. He had never attempted to experience the ladder when the gangway lifted because of the danger…
[113]     Did the failure of PRG to adequately warn of the danger cause Ranjbar to fall from the ladder? The answer is yes. If Ranjbar had known that the gangway would lift automatically, raising the stepladder off of the deck of the ship, he would not have waited while he threw down the backpack to Heidar and then proceed down the ladder. Heidar did not change his conduct as a result of the signs or horn, indicating that he, too, did not appreciate the danger. When the gangway started to lift, Ranjbar did not know what was happening and did not know what to do. Even if he had seen them, the warning signs were inadequate to transmit the danger to him. Ranjbar was aware of dangers generally at the terminal and took care, but relied upon others to inform him about specific dangers. He was a new visitor to this terminal and was given a security pass, but was not told anything about this gangway. The nature of the gangway as automatically lifting regardless that someone was on it was not obvious. It cannot be said in all of the circumstances that the plaintiff’s misunderstanding of the signs and horn was the cause of his injury…
[117]     In conclusion, following careful consideration of all of the facts and the guidance of the law, PRG is 100% liable for the injuries caused to the plaintiff.

bc injury law, failure to warn, Madam Justice Dillon

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ERIK
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When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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