Why did White Star settle with Whiteley By Senan Molony


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Paul Rogers

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article and felt that Senan Molony dealt well with the conflicting evidence, with the possible exception of his conclusion. My knowledge of the workings of the Law is practically nil however and, rather than assume that Senan's conclusion is in error, I thought I'd see if anyone out there can shed some further light on the subject.

Senan's conclusion to his article is based on the fact that a Court Case appears to have been provisionally arranged with Whiteley suing the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company for "...alleged negligent steering and unseaworthiness of the vessel." The case did not, however, take place as provisionally arranged. Senan then draws his conclusion as to the reasons for this non-event as follows:
This story is an orphan. Nothing transpired in early March. The case does not appear in the advance warning lists in late February, as it should have done. The explanation seems obvious - it was struck out because the OSNC, trading as the White Star Line, settled.
My question: is the explanation as obvious as Senan states?

These days in the UK we have what is known as Legal Aid; i.e. One can, if it can be proved one has a valid case and yet insufficient personal means to fund the costs, obtain Government funding to take a case to court. Although I have very limited understanding of this subject, I'd be very surprised if such a system existed in 1914.

I was wondering: perhaps Whiteley, rather than receiving a "pay-off" from White Star as is alleged in Senan's article, simply could not find the funds to pursue his claim through the Courts? Alternatively, perhaps his lawyer advised him that the case was unwinnable and best dropped?

Are there any lawyers (or Law history buffs) out there who could clarify this point for me please? Thanks, in anticipation.
 

Paul Lee

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Perhaps George Behe could comment on this - after all, he touched on the "pre-collision iceberg sighting" stories in one of his excellent Titanic books?

Best wishes

Paul

 
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>>My question: is the explanation as obvious as Senan states? <<

Don't know. It seems plausible, but I can't say as I understand how tort law really worked in the U.K. in 1912. However, it wouldn't be the first time that a potentially embarrassing case that would have raised awkward questions was settled out of court.
 

Dave Gittins

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One point that arises is whether Whitely could personally bring an action at all. He was a minor at the time and I think I'm correct in saying that he would have had to sue through his parents or guardian, or through what I recall as somebody called a "next friend". In other words, somebody would have to believe in his case and enable him to bring it to court. I'm open to correction from a British lawyer.

If Whiteley had a good case, he could have got a a lawyer, as did Thomas Ryan and others, who were represented by an eminent QC. Although legal aid as we know it did not exist, few went unrepresented in criminal cases, though it may have been harder to get a barrister in civil claims. A good case would have been a good start.

A point that should be looked at is whether Whitely had any right to damages other than those provided under the Workmen's Compensation Act. I suggest that he did not and that is possibly the reason for the case being dropped.

Of course, it may be that Michael is right and that some sort of settlement was made, to save expense and bad publicity. I have reason to believe that another case was settled in that way, though I can't find the full record.

Finally, in my opinion, Whiteley was just a typical example of those persons with big mouths who turn up from time to time. They claim to have inside information on something scandalous but in reality are liars of the first class. As Senan shows, his story does not hold water.
 

George Behe

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Hi, Paul!

>Perhaps George Behe could comment on this....

I presented my own analysis of the various 'early iceberg accounts' -- including Whiteley's -- in my book in 1997, and I can't really add much to what I said at that time unless someone should uncover important new evidence that bears on the subject.

By the way, Paul, how is your 'photo reproduction' of the disaster scene coming along? Will we be seeing the results of your research any time soon?

All my best,

George
 

Paul Lee

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Hi George,
Great to hear from you, my friend!

My little project is coming along slowly, mainly due to holidays, work pressure and family etc. Sigh. Hopefully I'll get something up and running later on in the year. I've had to scale some parts down due to complexity and enhance others to make the programme more "user friendly". The actual Java side of the programme is quite easy - its the graphical/geometry side thats proving hard!

Best wishes my friend
Paul

 

Paul Rogers

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Thanks all, esp. Dave G. I hadn't spotted the fact that he was a minor at the time; this surely would have impacted on his ability to bring a case to Court. Interesting information also re: the Workers Compensation Act; I know nothing about this, so I may do a bit of digging.

My initial thoughts were that the case was probably dropped, and the information provided by Dave seems to support that hypothesis. I remain open-minded, however, to the "pay-off" scenario. We'll probably never know either way.
 

George Behe

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Hi, Paul!

Thanks very much for the update on your project. Keep plugging away at it, old chap, because you've got an audience out here that is eager to see the results of your research. (I wish I had your ability to work with programming, but I'm just a child lost in the woods when it comes to that sort of thing.) :)

Take care, my friend -- it's great to see you here!

All my best,

George
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>I remain open-minded, however, to the "pay-off" scenario. We'll probably never know either way.<<

I agree. There wouldn't be information on it if it never happened, but if White Star offered some "hush money" it's not as if they would be so stupid as to leave a paper trail. These people weren't brain dead after all, and this is the sort of thing the newspapers would have gone for like a shark after blood!
 
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