Family Of Starbound Victim Files Second Lawsuit, This One In U.S.
With the ship suspected in the sinking berthed in Canada,
the Sanfilippos argue the case belongs in a New England court.
By Bart Jansen
Portland Press Herald

WASHINGTON – Relatives of a Maine fisherman killed in the sinking of the Starbound filed a second lawsuit Monday against the Russian-operated tanker that allegedly hit the fishing boat, initiating a case in U.S. federal court in addition to one filed Friday in Canadian federal court.

In a six-page complaint in U.S. District Court in Boston, the widow and children of James Sanfilippo of Thomaston sought $6 million each from the Cypriot owner of the tanker and the Russian operator. The relatives – widow Aimee Lynne Sanfilippo, son Sebastian Joseph Sanfilippo and step-daughter Ariana Anne Wadsworth – also are seeking $6 million from the shipping company in Canadian federal court in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The relatives and the company that owned the Starbound, Atlantic Mariner Inc., filed Canadian lawsuits so the tanker Virgo could be used as collateral for possible damages. The suits sought to prevent the ship from leaving before the case was resolved because the ship is owned and registered by a Cypriot company, A.L.T. Navigation Ltd., and operated by a Russian company, Primorsk Shipping Corp.

But David Anderson, a Boston lawyer representing Sanfilippo’s relatives in both cases, said the dispute should be tried in Boston because that’s where the Virgo conducted substantial business with the United States, and it’s where most of the Coast Guard investigators are based.

“The case ought to be litigated in New England,” he said.

Rather than fly experts back and forth to Canada, the various participants in the case might agree to try the case in the United States, Anderson said. He said he was unfamiliar with whether the United States or Canada, which have very similar maritime laws, offered greater prospects for damages in the case.

“The reason the case was brought was not on the basis of the biggest award,” Anderson said. “This is where the people are from. This is where the collision occurred. This company did business here.”

A Primorsk spokeswoman hasn’t responded to calls seeking comment.

The 83-foot fishing boat sank before dawn on Aug. 5. Its captain, James Marcantonio of Gloucester, Mass., was the only survivor. He described to investigators how a large tanker ran over the ship and kept going, its crew never acknowledging the collision.

Sanfilippo’s body was found floating about 130 miles off Cape Ann, Mass. Two other crewmen, Thomas Frontiero and Mark Doughty, were missing and presumed dead. Doughty lived in Yarmouth.

U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian investigators focused their criminal case on the 541-foot Virgo because the ship’s logs showed that its path from Boston to Come By Chance, Newfoundland, had brought it less than a mile from where the Starbound sank. Investigators also found a special teal paint on the tanker that appeared to be the same as that on the Starbound.

Criminal charges alleging manslaughter were filed a week ago in U.S. District Court in Washington against the ship’s captain, Vladimir Ivanov, second officer Dmitriy Bogdanov and helmsman Mikhail Gersimenko. An extradition hearing is scheduled for Sept. 13.

Under the Canadian civil cases, the ship’s operators or their insurer will have to post a bond that guarantees payment of the lawsuits if they lose the court cases, Anderson said.

If the Virgo’s owners and operators want the ship back, they must respond to the cases within 30 days, according to the lawsuit.

But under the U.S. case, Anderson must serve papers on the Cypriots and Russians and try to bring them to trial.

“It’s entirely possible this case won’t go anywhere,” he said of the U.S. filing.