Cased Involving Injury Claims on Canal Waters

In Zorn v. State of New York, 45 App Div 163, 164 [3d Dept 1899], a boat was destroyed because of a break in one of the canal dams after the boat had completed its trip through the canals and was tied near a dock waiting to be unloaded. Its destruction was considered to arise from navigation of the canal, however, because it still rested upon waters deemed to be part of the canal system and because, since the cargo had not been removed, "the navigation in which the plaintiff was engaged was not, I think, at an end" (id. at 166). Since it is evident from other cases dealing with flood damage to lands and buildings adjacent to the canal that those types of losses would be compensated if caused by a break in the dam, it is safe to say that the "navigational" exception to the waiver of immunity is construed quite broadly (accord, Hugelmaier v. State of New York, 125 Misc 2d 1026, 1027 [Ct Cl 1984]). And, in fact, claims brought by persons who are injured while on the canal waters or whose property is injured while it is in the canal have been uniformly unsuccessful (see, Barrett v. State of New York, 139 Misc 2d 42 [Ct Cl 1988]; Gray v. State of New York, 205 Misc 242 [Ct Cl 1954]; Glens Falls Ins. Co. v. State of New York, 188 Misc 684 [Ct Cl 1947]). This is true whether the injured parties are present on canal waters for private or commercial purposes (Hugelmaier v. State of New York, supra); whether the vessels are in motion at the time of the injury (Glens Falls Ins. Co. v. State of New York, supra [cement slab falling from canal wall onto motionless boat]); whether the State's action involved operation of a statutory canal, a fixture, or of a boat upon the canal waters (Sayer v. State of New York, 116 Misc 644 [Ct Cl 1921] [moored boat struck by derrick boat operated by the State]); and, as noted above, whether or not the direct cause of the injury had anything to do with actual navigation (Penn No. 5 v. State of New York, 205 Misc 18 [Ct Cl 1953] [negligent withdrawal of water into an adjacent power house]; Condon v. State of New York, 169 Misc 666 [Ct Cl 1938] [person on barge stuck by lift bridge]).