Crew members of the Maersk Alabama filed the lawsuit against the company that owned the ship, claiming they were steered into pirate-infested waters near the Somali coast without any real protection. Their ship was attacked in 2009, leading to an epic standoff that ended when Navy SEAL snipers intervened.
Captain Richard Phillips (played by Tom Hanks) isn’t named in the lawsuit, but the lawyer representing the nine crew members who are suing has made some sharp comments in the press suggesting the attack was his fault. He has an entire page on his Website called “Captain Phillips: The True Story” dedicated to arguing the movie is inaccurate.
“To make him into a hero for driving this boat and these men into pirate-infested waters, that’s the real injustice here,” attorney Brian Beckcom told ABC News. “The movie tells a highly fictionalized version of what actually happened.”
One of the suing crew members, Jimmy Sabga, places the blame squarely on his old boss’s shoulders, suggesting the captain was warned not to enter the pirate-infested waters. “Captain Phillips did not follow orders, the ship was attacked and he was responsible,” he said in a statement quoted by ABC.
These statements suggest that proving Phillips’ negligence could bolster their case.
The portrayal of Phillips by Tom Hanks may not support their apparent mission to make Phillips look bad. As The New York Times review of the movie put it, Hanks “can convey a sense of old-fashioned American decency just by standing in the frame.”
It’s understandable why Richard Phillips was hailed as a hero after the 2009 attack. After pirates came aboard, Phillips offered himself as a hostage and allowed the crew members to escape unharmed days before Navy Seal snipers rescued him, according to a New York Times account. He had the crew lock themselves in cabins while he was taken at gunpoint onto a lifeboat. Over the next days, pirates made repeated threats on his life, according to The Times.
The crew members still say they suffered, though. The complaint says they endured Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, sleep disorders, inconvenience, and humiliation.
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