If you promise to move your boat from the marina before the hurricane hits, do you really have to? A lot of boat storage contracts require boat owners to move their boats on request if the marina owner determines the boats will be a hazard during a hurricane. As Hurricane Opal bore down on the Florida panhandle, Mel’s Marina asked the owners of 16 boats to move them, just like they promised to do. The boat owners took a look at Opal, took a look at Mel, and decided they were much more afraid of Opal than Mel, and left their boats right where they were. Opal hit hard and the 16 boats were tossed around like toys doing substantial damage to the marina. Mel sued the boat owners, who cited a Florida law that says marinas can’t force vessels to be removed following the issuance of a hurricane watch. Mel argued federal maritime law preempts state law. But despite a lot of high pressure, the Court waded into the eye of the storm and found for the boat owners, holding that life and safety trumps property. So even if you promised to move, you may not have to, since the Courts may provide a safe harbor to ride out the storm that follows a storm.
THIS IS NEIL CHAYET LOOKING AT THE LAW™
Burklow & Associates, Inc., d/b/a Mel’s Marina v. Regan, Belcher, et al., District Court of Appeals of Florida, First District, 9/17/98, Barfield, J., 1998 W.L. 633980 (Fla. App. 1 Dist.)