Southport Marina owners partially dismiss lawsuit against boat owners for damage to docks


SOUTHPORT, N.C. (WECT) – A major portion of the lawsuit pursuing damages against boat owners at Southport Marina has been dismissed. The marina suffered catastrophic damage when Hurricane Isaias roared ashore in Brunswick County in August 2020. The docks came apart, and more than 100 boats moored at the Southport Marina were set adrift in the wake of the storm.

In an unwelcome surprise to boat owners who had already suffered extensive damage to their boats, the marina informed them they were responsible for millions in damages to the docks. The marina owners reasoned that the boats, and not the storm, were responsible for the damage to the docks. On average, each boat owner was told they owed $20,000, with the suggestion that they file a claim for damages with their insurance companies.

The majority of the boat owners pushed back and filed suit against the marina owners in federal court.

Then, last month, the Southport Marina was sold to a Charlotte-based firm. Following the sale, the marina’s old owners made the decision drop the claim against boat owners for damages to their facilities.

The old marina owners are still pursuing salvage claims against individual boat owners, trying to recoup payment for retrieving boats that were set adrift when the docks failed. While that amounts to far less potential liability than boat owners were previously facing, Attorney Christopher Abel says the boat owners he represents are still pushing back. They argue their boats would not have needed to be salvaged had the docks worked as they were designed to work. Furthermore, attorneys question whether this scenario meets the definition of a true maritime salvage situation, because they say the boats were not exposed to a marine peril once the storm had passed.

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