Lee's Ford settles federal lawsuit against boat

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Lee's Ford Marina settled last week with the owners of a boat that racked up more than $80,000 in fees. A lawsuit was filed in Federal court naming the boat as the defendant.

The lawsuit between Lee’s Ford Marina and the boat M/V Magic Moments has reached a conclusion.

The boat was sued in federal court by Lee’s Ford for racking up more than $50,000 in fees while being moored at the Lake Cumberland dock.

Over time, the interest on those fees, plus the boat’s mortgage costs, meant that dollar amount jumped up to about the actual value of the boat, according to Lee’s Ford Marina’s attorney, Dan Thompson.

Now, the boat is now officially the property of Lee’s Ford. In a settlement filed last week, the boat’s original owners, Dennis and Patty Burns, agreed to turn the boat over to Lee’s Ford, while the marina has agreed not to ask for any additional money from the Burns.

In turn, Lee’s Ford has settled with the holder of the boat’s mortgage, PNC Bank, for the amount still owed to the bank.

According to court documents, Dennis Burns entered into a slip rental agreement with Lee's Ford in May 2014 to have the boat harbored there for the 2014 boating season. The agreement stipulated that if the boat remains in the slip at the end of that term without the owner renewing the agreement, or if the owner is more than 45 days late with a payment, the owner will be obligated to pay the daily rate.

Lee's Ford contends that the account fell into arrears for more than 45 days and the boat was not vacated from the marina upon termination of the contract.

Lee’s Ford originally sued Burns in state court, and the parties reached a partial settlement in January 2016, but the amount of damages owed was never agreed upon, and the case stagnated.

This led Lee's Ford to open the case in federal court last year and request that the state case be dismissed.

Lee’s Ford sued the boat directly in federal court rather than its owners due to the Commercial Instruments and Maritime Lien Act which allows a boat to be named as the entity to be sued based on the "legal fiction" – or the personification of an object – that the ship caused the loss of money and can, therefore, be called to court to be held accountable.

Lee’s Ford settled with PNC bank for $59,527.33. Lee’s Ford also paid Burnside Marina $5,303 for fees the boat had accrued while moored there.

The judgement states that as of January 31, the amount owed to Lee’s Ford through wharfage fees and interest had grown to $88,628.

Thompson said that while the case is settled, the finalization of signing the boat over to Lee’s Ford has been delayed – as most things have been recently – due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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