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Baltimore business sues Dali owners for negligence after Key Bridge collapse, seeks damages

BALTIMORE -- A Baltimore-based publisher that says it suffered significant losses after the deadly collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge last month seeks damages from the owners of the malfunctioning ship that caused the disaster, according to a class action lawsuit filed Thursday. 

Essex-based American Publishing claims local businesses that relied on the bridge dramatically reduced ad placements in the publisher's directories immediately following the collapse, a big hit to its revenue.

The Dali, the 948-foot vessel owned by Grace Ocean Limited and managed by Synergy Marine Group, suddenly lost power before it crashed into a support column of the Key Bridge in the early hours of March 26.  

Like Baltimore City's lawsuit against the two Singaporean companies, the company claims the owners of the Dali were negligent in letting the ship leave the Port of Baltimore without failing to fix known power problems.  

The publisher said it was flourishing before the collapse, with steadily increasing distribution and "significant advertisement revenue" from local businesses. But the collapse brought a "dramatic halt" to that growth, the suit claims. 

"Claimants' income declined 84% when comparing April 2023 to April 2024," the filing said. "There was no other reason for this dramatic loss of income other than the destruction of the Key Bridge."

Dali owner aims to dodge liability, publisher counters

Perhaps anticipating a wave of lawsuits, Grace Ocean Private and Synergy Marine Group took steps about a week after the collapse to limit their liability for the crash. 

In a six-page preemptive filing in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, the companies evoked the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, in which a shipowner can try to limit the amount they have to pay if their ship is involved in an accident; that limit would equal the value of the ship.

According to the ship's owner, that value is $43,670,000, a price "substantially lower than the expected claims for losses and damages" in the collapse, the Thursday filing said. The publisher called on the court to dismiss the Limitation of Liability claim. 

"The limitation fund is insufficient, and the Petition for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability should be dismissed due to inadequate security deposit by Petitioners for the Vessel," the filing said. 

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