I let him borrow my boat while I was on vacation. Boat was sea worthy. Pretty sure he didn't put the plug in it properly and it came out. Error on his part
Port Clinton (where the question is posted) is on Lake Erie. If the sinking occurred on Lake Erie or on any waters connected to Lake Erie (e.g.: Sandusky Bay; Portage River), then the matter will controlled by Maritime law rather than state law.
Under Maritime law, the operator is responsible for repair or replacement if the sinking was caused by operator error (such as failing to install the drain plug prior to launching the vessel). The operator is not responsible, however, if the accident was caused by a defect in the vessel (such as a leaking through-hull fitting). If the sinking was cause by a combination of operator error and vessel defect, then the court will apportion responsibility for payment based on each party’s proportional fault.
There may be State Statutes that deal with lending of personal property and it is later damaged. This is VERY common with automobiles.
Though Mr. Richard is correct with the maritime law jurisdictional issue, I think there is something else to be concerned with: rescuing the boat. If it causes ANY kind of environmental harm (oil, water hazard, etc.) you will be on the hook for it as the owner of the boat. This does not mean, however, that you cannot get him to pay for any associated legal costs.
You definitely need to consult with a maritime attorney. You can find one here on avvo.com or www.mlaus.org.
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possibly, more facts would be needed, did the boat sink because he did something wrong? its hard to say based just on your info
Your friend was negligent, and yes he is liable for the loss of your boat and the costs of recovery and or removal
In these types of situations, the law recognizes what is referred to as a "Bailment." A bailment occurs when properties such as a boat is delivered to a third person such as a boat yard, Marina, or other individual, under a oral or written contract, without transfer of title to the boat, delivery and acceptance of delivery, and the failure upset person, Marina or boatyard to return the vessel in an undamaged condition.
The duty under bailment is not to replace the boat, but to return the boat in a condition which is on damaged while in the care of said third person. This duty calls for ordinary and reasonable care under the circumstances. Once the Bailor proves delivery to the Bailee, in good condition, the burden and then shifts to the Bailee to prove that it is not responsible for the damage caused. Syncing is a very common cause of damage while a boat is in Bailment.
They measure of damages as a result of the breach of bailment is not to replace the boat but instead to pay for the damages to return the boat to the condition in which it was at time of delivery.
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My first question to you is whether you were insured? If so, before you call them -- first read the policy. You may not have been covered if you loaned the boat. Alternatively, he may be considered an additional insured, and immune from suit. Also, "replacing" is a loaded term here. Under the usual conditions, your friend would only be liable for the value of the boat at the time of the loss. If insured at full replacement (not the norm) and a covered loss, the insurance co itself might also be limited to this value. A possible State law issue. Even if he is "responsible" -- he will defend saying the boat was not seaworthy if the plug could just 'come out.' If you are not insured, parts of the foregoing still apply, and you may want to know if he has any insurance. If a really good friend, this may change that.
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