Parties mum on settlement to end salvage claim against drifting Spruce Head lobster boat

Posted June 07, 2014, at 3:44 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A lawsuit by the owner of a vessel that rescued a drifting lobster boat 16 months ago has been settled but both sides are not releasing the details.

The case centers on the 42-foot lobster boat Xtreme Measures which broke from its mooring off Spruce Head during a blizzard in February 2013. Owner Jason Hooper had no luck finding the vessel but 10 days after it broke its mooring, the 76-foot long offshore lobster boat Amy Philbrick spotted it 150 miles out to sea.

The Amy Philbrick, owned by the company Amy Philbrick LLC in Newington, New Hampshire, towed Xtreme Measures to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and held it until Hooper’s insurance company posted a $200,000 bond in March 2013 to cover potential salvage claims. The Amy Philbrick’s owner then filed a lawsuit in May 2013 in U.S. District Court in Portland to claim $200,000 for salvage.

The two sides have filed competing motions during the past year. On May 5, a settlement conference was held before Magistrate Judge John C. Nivison. The two sides reached an agreement and on Thursday, Amy Philbrick LLC filed a notice of dismissal with the federal court in Portland. The terms of the settlement were not filed with the court.

Attorney Stephen Ouellette of Gloucester, Massachusetts, who represents the Amy Philbrick, said Friday that he could not comment on the settlement. Hooper could not be reached for comment and a telephone call to his attorney Leonard Langer of Portland was not returned Friday.

Ouellette said last year when the lawsuit was filed that maritime law on salvage goes back hundreds of years. He said if a person saves the property of another person at sea they automatically acquire a lien and can take custody of the vessel that was rescued until the salvage fee is paid. The owner of the rescued vessel can post a bond as the matter goes through court.

Hooper had the $350,000 Xtreme Measures custom-built in 2006 at Clark Island Boat Works in St. George.

Ouellette said last year that Hooper’s insurance company would likely pay the salvage fee that was ordered by the court or agreed to before a ruling. The fee is based on factors such as the threat of damage to the rescued vessel, the risk to the people salvaging the vessel and the value of the salvaged boat.

The attorney pointed out that if a tugboat prevents an oil tanker from grounding that would have resulted in significant pollution, a salvage fee could be astronomical.