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Real-Life Capt. Phillips Sued by Crew for Millions

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Avast, me hearties! Captain Phillips' lawsuit is set to hit a theater courtroom this winter.

Richard Phillips -- whose 2009 ordeal with Somali pirates will be depicted in the upcoming film "Captain Phillips" with Tom Hanks -- is embroiled in a lawsuit brought by his former crew members who claim his negligence caused the crisis.

How's that for an anticlimactic plot twist? Aaarrrrgh!

Phillips and his crew members spent five harrowing days in 2009 as a hostage of Somali pirates on a lifeboat after the Maersk Alabama was hijacked. He was rescued days later by U.S. Navy SEALs, who shot three of the pirates, reports ABC News.

Nine of the former 20 crew members of the container ship are suing the ship's owner, Maersk Line Limited, and the operator, Waterman Steamship Corporation, claiming Phillips put their lives in jeopardy and behaved like anything but a hero.

Basically, in pirate-speak: Phillips was trying to catch a Tartar.

The Reasonable P(arrgh)son

Central to the analysis of whether Phillips negligently steered the crew into harm's way is whether he fell below the "reasonable person" standard.

As endlessly entertaining as it would be, the "reasonable person" is not Jack Sparrow.

Instead, it's an objective question of whether an ordinary person in similar circumstances would have behaved in the same way.

In this case, the crew members are unequivocally saying, "Yo ho ho, no" (OK, so they never said "Yo ho ho.").

They allege the companies and Cap'n Phillips "...knowingly, intentionally and willfully..." sent them into an area with pirates, because the route saved the company money, according to ABC News.

Even more damaging, they claim Phillips ignored maritime warnings -- including one issued two days before the pirates stormed their vessel, to stay at least 600 miles from the Somali coast because of a rash of attacks -- to keep on schedule.

Saving money and staying on schedule are probably not reasonable reasons to disregard warnings and steer into pirate-infested waters and risk your crew's life and limb.

Walk the Plank?

The crew members will not be asking Phillips to walk the plank as a remedy. A damages amount isn't stated in the lawsuit, but according to New York Daily News, it's a multi-million figure.

The trial is expected to begin this December -- shiver me timbers!

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