April 14, 1912, the ship that even God could not sink met an untimely demise. The “unsinkable” R.M.S. Titanic set out on its maiden voyage to ferry 2,227 men, women and children to America from Southampton. Some of the wealthiest people on the planet were passengers on the ship while others were simple folk traveling in search of a better life for themselves and their families. The following is an account used as a “mock” trial developed by the Anderson, Kill & Olick, P.C. law firm to explore a case of tort for negligence in Jensen v. White Star Line.
Hans Jensen, a 20-year-old carpenter, and his fiance’ Carla Jensen, her brother, Svend, and her Cousin, Niels, were traveling on the “unsinkable” R.M.S. Titanic to The United States. Hans had hoped to make a better wage in America. Hans and Carla shared the same last name but were neither related or married at this time. Because of this, Carla resided in the back part of the ship on Deck F with the other single women, while the boys were stationed on the opposite side of the boat. The facts show that the Titanic was warned well enough ahead of time of possible icebergs and impending danger ahead. The ship did not alter its course or speed. At the time the Titanic hit the iceberg, and the evacuation of the ship began, Hans was already on the top deck helping to load lifeboats. He grew concerned when he did not see his fiance’ and began to search for her. Hans found Carla and helped her navigate the subdued crowd to the lifeboat area. He remained with her until she was placed on the boat and was gently lowered into the water below. Hans made a commitment to Carla that he would reunite with Carla in a few days. Alas, he never made it to New York, and his body was never found. Hans and Carla made a wise decision before departing, they choose to create their separate wills before the voyage. Hans named Carla as his sole beneficiary and estate executor. Because of this legal document, Carla takes Hans place as his estate’s representative and plaintiff against White Star Lines. Carla Christine Jensen(Hans Jensen’s fiance’) sued on his estate’s behalf. The defendant is WHITE STAR LINES and the witnesses, the Titanic’s Second Officer Lightoller and Swedish military attache’ Bjornstrom-Steffansson.
The remedy being sought in the suit of Jensen v. White Star is compensatory damages to Mr. Jensen’s estate for his death. The lawsuit claims the following: physical injuries and the pain and suffering Hans incurred as he froze to death in the cold waters of the North Atlantic, the emotional and anguish of knowing he was going to die which would leave his fiance’ alone, and the financial losses for the wages he would have earned performing carpentry work. The plaintiff explained that the White Star Line was grossly negligent and how it was responsible for killing almost 1,500 children, women, and men many of whom were third class passengers including Hans Jensen. The plaintiff also sought punitive damages as punishment of White Star Lines for its wanton and reckless behavior of failing to operate and control the Titanic properly. Not only will punitive damages punish the company monetarily, but also hopefully deter a similar situation occurring in the future. Carla Jensen as the plaintiff charged that White Star had been incredibly irresponsible in the duty of care for their passengers. She felt that White Star was negligent by failing to provide care as a reasonably careful person would have acted under the same circumstances. The White Star’s reckless behavior of failing to properly operate and control the Titanic explain they had not cared about their duty to the passengers. Duty is defined as an obligation or conduct identified in the law as a reasonable behavior in light of a perceived risk. The White Star Line failed to conform to the required standard of care. The White Star Line and its agents, the crew of the Titanic, behaved in an unreasonable manner in many ways. They had the most modern ship in the world, equipped with a modern radio and still hit a large iceberg on a clear night with calm seas.
White Star Line states it cannot be held liable for the death of Hans Jensen because his death was caused by the acts of other passengers as well as himself. They believe that Mr. Jensen’s negligence led to his demise and the acts superseded the plaintiff’s alleged accusations on the part of White Star Line and their liability. The company argued that the conduct of fellow passengers as superseding cause would cancel out the White Star Line’s negligence. As stated by Second Officer Lightoller, Mr. Jensen insisted he help control and guide his fellow passengers. Hans was told his help was not needed, yet he decided to step in anyways. In the meantime, the boat was launched without Mr. Jensen being onboard. White Star demonstrates that Lieutenant Bjornstrom-Steffansson was quite capable of crowd control while still finding adequate room on the lifeboat, as should Mr. Jensen have also found. The defense argued that Mr. Jensen’s actions were a superseding cause that canceled out White Star being negligent. Mr. Jensen voluntarily removed himself from Lifeboat D; there was no need because there was ample room. In the end, all who remained on Lifeboat D during the tragedy survived. Mr. Jensen “assumed the risk” of injury with the understanding he was in a dire position. White Star Line made their case and pointed that Mr. Hans Jensen understood the risk presented by not remaining in the lifeboat, he was old enough and had the cognitive ability to understand the clear and present danger, and he voluntarily exposed himself to the risk of not remaining onboard the lifeboat. Because of these factors, the Plaintiff cannot recover damages.
Based strictly on the legal merits of the claims and defenses presented, I would find favor as a juror for the plaintiff. The defense did argue that Mr. Hans Jensen was responsible for his actions that helped result in his death. He refused to remain onboard the lifeboat that would have meant his survival; he did understand that the ship was damaged and sinking. However, the Plaintiff did demonstrate through evidence that the Titanic did receive several ice-warning messages from other ships in the area via the radio room. The Caronia, the Amerika, the Baltic, and the Californian had sent warnings. The only message that was posted was from the Californian. Captain Smith had retired to his quarters around 9:20p which left his Second Officer in command. Second Officer Lightoller’s watch was over around 10p, and he went to his cabin upon finishing his rounds. The ship struck an iceberg near the Newfoundland coast at approximately 11:40p. The captain awoke and spoke with a crew member concerning the noise, but returned to his cabin. Fourth Officer Boxhall brought the news that the situation was severe and the ship was taking on water. Captain Smith order the evacuation of the ship. Lightoller began the orderly loading of the lifeboats over a 2 1/2 hour period. The lifeboats were lowered without being maxed out in capacity. The crew members launched all but four boats and used every signal flare they had available. The mighty Titanic sank at 2:20a on April 15th. 1,522 people perished in the tragedy including Mr. Hans Jensen. When given the testimony of the situation of the ship as far as not taking heed to the ice warnings, slowing down the ship during the night, a point to fill every lifeboat to capacity, and the fact the passengers were led to believe the ship was “unsinkable” all were factors that resulted in the demise of so many passengers including Mr. Hans Jensen. White Star Line was grossly negligent and failed to operate and control the Titanic properly. Even though it was Captain Smith that was at the helm that fateful night, he along with the company were liable and responsible for the actions that took place that night. The White Star Line did owe Mr. Jensen a duty of reasonable care which they did breach. There was a connection between the actions of the crew of the White Star Line’s Titanic that led to Mr. Jensen’s death. Because of this finding, I believe that White Star Lines is liable and should pay the plaintiff for wrongful death, future wages, physical pain and suffering, and mental anguish. The White Star Line should also pay punitive damages to the plaintiff for reckless disregard to properly perform its duties to the plaintiff.
Pruner, Mark. “Homepage – AKO Titanic Trial.” Homepage – AKO Titanic Trial. Anderson
Kill P.C., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.