Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.
1.45 The Process of Law - 2 000-3 000 millions to share
The 'Estonia' accident investigation Final report (5) has not yet been tested in court in spite of several attempts 1996-2001. At Stockholm one relative has sued the ship owner Nordström & Thulin, Estline and their owners 1996. Another relative tried to sue each board member personally 1996. His lawyer was Henning Sjöström, Stockholm, who thought that all relatives and survivors could obtain another SEK 2 000-3 000 millions in damages. However in the two cases, which were heard together 2000, only minor damages were requested. It was the question of responsibility, which should be decided.
The majority of relatives, which accepted the payments from the P&I Club Skuld and therefore could not sue the shipping company or its owners, has sued the shipyard, the class society Bureau Veritas and the Swedish NMA at Paris. This process is expected to start mid-2002.
On 30 December 1999 the German group of experts 3.13 handed in its report to the court at Stockholm.
The courts at Stockholm and Paris are only requested to decide who is responsible for the accident. When the 'Herald of Free Enterprise' accident was decided by an English court, not only the ship owning company was found guilty but also individual staff on board and ashore. The proximate cause of the accident was that a crewmember had forgotten to close the bow door. It resulted in flooding of the car deck of the ferry and immediate capsize. The court considered that this negligence was due to responsible persons on board and ashore.
On 22 February 2000 the court at Stockholm decided that the 'Estonia' relatives had no right to damages as per the Swedish law of the Sea of 1891 and 198 §, i.e. a relative cannot obtain damages (only the victim), even if the ship owner can be found responsible for the accident. It took the court four years to reach that decision and in the meantime the process at Paris was pending. The decision at Stockholm has been appealed. No court at either Stockholm or Paris has therefore still looked at the content and evidence of the Final report (5).
At Hamburg interested parties have 2001 asked the prosecutor to investigate whether five Germans on the 'Estonia' were in fact murdered, which is now being investigated. It seems the 'Estonia' accident will be subject to court hearings for many years to come.