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£300,000 Damages Award for Exploding Yacht

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

A businessman whose luxury yacht exploded in flames 15 minutes into its maiden voyage has won £300,000 from the company that sold it to him. A judge ruled that, barring an attack by a submarine, the only likely explanation for the disaster was that the yacht was defective within the meaning of the Sale of Goods Act 1979.

Paul Ward and his passenger had to jump onto a life raft as flames took hold of the newly-bought vessel in Southampton Water in February 2010. Irish yacht dealer, MGM Marine Limited, was ordered to pay him £291,000 damages as well as legal costs estimated at £154,000, subject to final assessment.

Mr Ward gave evidence that he purchased the 36-foot Meridian 341 in late 2009 and it was only 15 minutes into his first voyage when acrid smoke filled the saloon and he deployed his life raft. The cockpit went up in flames and both men suffered burns to their bodies and clothing as they escaped to safety. The vessel sank.

Upholding Mr Ward’s claim, Judge David Mackie QC said: ‘There is absolutely no evidence that this fire occurred otherwise than as a result of defects with the engine or the boat. Subject to speculating on attacks from submarines or something, there is no other explanation available.’

Mr Ward was awarded £244,000 for loss of the boat, £37,682 for the cost of salvage and storage, £4,396 for personal expenses and loss of equipment and £5,000 for pain, suffering and loss of amenity.

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