A federal judge began hearing testimony on Tuesday regarding an $85,000 boat insurance claim — the latest in a family entanglement that includes allegations of murder and fraud.
The trial is regarding insurance companies’ refusal to cover Nathan Carman’s claim for the 31-foot boat, Chicken Pox, which sank in September 2016 after leaving Ram Point Marina in South Kingstown, R.I., for a tuna fishing trip, according to the Providence Journal.
BoatUS and the National Liability & Fire Insurance Co. say that faulty repairs made by Carman caused the boat to sink and voided the insurance policy.
Carman, a 26-year-old from Vermont, has said he was adrift for seven days after his boat sank while fishing for tuna with his mother aboard. His mother, Linda Carman, has never been found after sinking in an area off of Long Island known as Block Canyon, according to the Hartford Courant.
A U.S. District Court in Providence, R.I., judge is restricting the trial to issues surrounding the insurance claim instead of the disappearance of Carman’s mother or the murder of his millionaire grandfather, John Chakalos, in 2013, in which police say Carman remains a person of interest.
The trial is focused on three things: if Carman breached his duty by failing to inform the insurance company of work he did on the boat, if his repairs were faulty and if he knew Chicken Pox was not seaworthy.
During trial Tuesday, a BoatUS lawyer said that given the alterations Carman made to the boat, its sinking was “predictable,” according to the Courant.
“He left Point Judith with holes in his boat and 12 hours later it sank,” BoatUS lawyer David Farrell told the court.
Farrell said Carman used an epoxy to fill holes he made in the boat, despite directions that said, “Do not use to fill holes, adding that it was predictable “that it sank the next day,” according to the newspaper.
Farrell said in his opening statement that a hypothermia expert will testify there is little chance Carman was drifting in a life raft for a week before his rescue.
He said a physician from Massachusetts General Hospital will testify based on photos taken of Carman after he was rescued at sea that he “must have been in the life raft significantly shorter than the seven days” that he claims.
Carman had removed the trim tabs from the boat, leaving the holes that insurance companies say he didn’t properly fill.
Carman has acknowledged drilling holes dangerously close to the water line to remove the tabs and filling them with an epoxy. He also has said he replaced a bilge pump before the trip.
He told authorities that the boat started taking on water and sank quickly and that he managed to jump onto a life raft — but that he didn’t see what happened to his mother.
Carman’s three aunts have accused him of sinking the boat to kill his mother, and the murder of their father John Chakalos three years earlier, under a scheme to inherit $7 million from the Chakalos estate.