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This case involved an allision causing significant damage to a submerged moor line for a mobile offshore drilling unit used by Shell. Tesla, an offshore survey company, contracted with International to provide and operate the tow vessel. On appeal, International and Tesla challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing their indemnity and insurance claims. The Fifth Circuit held that a warning to Tesla's party chief that the tow vessel was moving too close to the moor line was a gratuitous act that had no effect on the outcome of the litigation. The court also held that none of the insurance policies were in the record nor was there any other evidence from which the policy language could be definitively discerned. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment as to Tesla's and International's insurance claims and remanded. View "International Marine, LLC v. Integrity Fisheries, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this admiralty law case, a certain vessel - taken out of service, subjected to a twenty-month conversion process, and unable to engage in transportation during the entirety of the claimant’s onboard employment - was “out of navigation” as a matter of law and thus outside the Jones Act. Kelvin Gold, an employee of Helix Energy Solutions Group, reported injuries suffered aboard the HELIX 534 and sued Helix for additional maintenance-and-cure benefits, as well as actual and punitive damages. Gold claimed those remedies under the Jones Act as a “seaman” aboard a “vessel in navigation.” During the entire time Gold worked aboard the 534 the ship lacked the ability to navigate on her own due to the overhaul of her engines. The trial court granted summary judgment for Helix, concluding that the 534 was not a vessel in navigation under undergoing the overhaul. The court of appeals reversed, finding a fact question. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s summary judgment, holding as a matter of law that the 534 was not in navigation and therefore that the Jones Act did not apply during the course of Gold’s employment. View "Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. v. Gold" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Offshore under the Jones Act, alleging maritime claims for negligence and unseaworthiness arising out of an alleged injury he suffered. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor Offshore and remanded for reconsideration in light of the current Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, including whether the particular material to which objection was lodged can or cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible at trial. In this case, the district court relied on a prior version of Rule 56 and cases thereunder to discount the signed but unsworn report of Captain James P. Jamison. View "Lee v. Offshore Logistical & Transport" on Justia Law

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The Oil Pollution Act (OPA), as confirmed by the Act's legislative history, grants to an OPA Responsible Party the right to receive contribution from other entities who were partially at fault for a discharge of oil. Specifically, a Responsible Party may recover from a jointly liable third party any damages it paid to claimants, including those arising out of purely economic losses. In a suit arising from a collision of two barges, the district court found both Settoon and Marquette Transportation were negligent. The Fifth Circuit held that Settoon could receive contribution from Marquette for its payment of purely economic damages, i.e., for the cleanup costs. The court also held that the district court's apportionment of fault was not clearly erroneous. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In re: Settoon Towing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against the Government under the third-party liability provision of the Longshore and Harborworkers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. 905(b), after plaintiff was injured while aboard a public vessel owned by the Government and operated by its agents. Plaintiff was inspecting the vessel in connection with his employer's bidding on repair work. The district court concluded that, because the Government's negligent failure to safely illumine the stairwell was the factual and legal cause of plaintiff's accidental fall and its disabling consequences, the Government was fully liable for his resulting harm and disability, even though his preexisting conditions made the consequences of the Government's negligence more severe than they would have been for an ordinary victim. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not apply the wrong legal standard in this case with regard to plaintiff's preexisting medical conditions; the district court did not err in holding that the accident was the sole cause of plaintiff's damages; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by limiting the testimony of the Government's expert witness. View "Koch v. United States" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit asked the Louisiana Supreme Court: “What is the meaning of ‘good faith’ as that term is used in the Louisiana Environmental Quality Act, Louisiana Revised Statutes 30:2027?” Eric Borcik was employed by Crosby Tugs, L.L.C. (Crosby) as a deckhand. In July 2010, he was transferred to the M/V NELDA FAYE. Borcik claims that the lead captain of the NELDA FAYE ordered him to dump waste oil into navigable waters and otherwise violate environmental laws over a period of three years. He further claims that he followed these orders. In May 2013, Borcik emailed Crosby’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). His email communicated that he had “concerns” that he stated “have all fallen on deaf ears” and expressed “fear [of] some form of retaliation.” He later met with the CAO in person. Borcik was transferred to another boat and later fired. Borcik contends he was fired in retaliation for his complaints; Crosby contends that Borcik was fired for insubordination. Borcik sued Crosby in October 2013, alleging retaliatory termination in violation of Louisiana Environmental Quality Act (“LEQA”), specifically claiming that Crosby violated the Louisiana Environmental Whistleblower Act. The Supreme Court answered the certified question: the term “good faith,” as used in R.S. 30:2027, means an employee is acting with an honest belief that a violation of an environmental law, rule, or regulation occurred. View "Borcik v. Crosby Tugs, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., against Defendants Galliano Marine Service and C-Innovation, seeking to recover unpaid wages for overtime worked during his employment at C-Innovation. Defendants run a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) business for offshore applications and employed plaintiff as an ROV Technician and ROV Supervisor. The district court granted summary judgment against plaintiff. The court concluded that the district court erred in granting defendant's motion for summary judgment because it has not been established as a matter of law that the seaman exemption applies. In this case, competing testimonial evidence regarding whether plaintiff was a master or subject to the authority, direction, and control of the master aboard a vessel precludes summary judgment. Furthermore, the district court must determine what proportion of plaintiff's time is spent on seaman's work. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Halle v. Galliano Marine Service, LLC" on Justia Law

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Regulations promulgated by the National Marine Fisheries Service require that commercial fishermen must, on occasion, be accompanied on their vessels by at-sea monitors to ensure accountability with respect to catch limits. The regulations require that the fishermen bear the costs of the at-sea monitors. Plaintiff, a New Hampshire fisherman subject to the industry funding requirement for the at-sea monitoring program, brought suit in federal district court claiming that the industry funding requirement violated several laws and was unconstitutional. Plaintiff was joined in the proceedings by a group of commercial fishermen also subject to the industry funding requirement. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the government, concluding that the action was untimely filed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s suit was not filed within the applicable statute of limitations. View "Goethel v. U.S. Department of Commerce" on Justia Law

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This consolidated case under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 883, and general maritime law, involved an accident on a barge in the navigable waterways of Louisiana. Defendant, the barge owner, appealed the district court's judgment for plaintiffs. The court held that evidence supported the district court's award to plaintiff McBride for pre-death fear and conscious pain and suffering, and the district court's award of damages for loss of past and future support was not clearly erroneous. The court also concluded that the district court's award of future cure until plaintiff Touchet reaches maximum medical improvement and for future medical expenses beyond Touchet's maximum medical improvement was not reversible error. Finally, the district court did not clearly err in finding that Touchet was permanently disabled and by awarding damages for lost earnings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "McBride v. Estis Well Service, LLC" on Justia Law

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Allan Tabingo was seriously injured while working aboard a fishing trawler owned and operated by American Seafoods Company LLC and American Triumph LLC (collectively American Seafoods). Tabingo alleged the lever used to operate a hatch on the trawler's deck broke when an operator tried to stop the hatch from closing. The hatch closed on Tabingo' s hand, leading to the amputation of two fingers. He brought numerous claims against American Seafoods, including a general maritime unseaworthiness claim for which he requested punitive damages. American Seafoods argued that as a matter of law, punitive damages were unavailable for unseaworthiness claims. The issue of whether punitive damages were available for a claim of unseaworthiness was a question of first impression for both the United States and Washington State Supreme Courts. The United States Supreme Court recently held that punitive damages were available for maintenance and cure, another general maritime claim. The Court held that because both the claim and the damages were historically available at common law and because Congress had shown no intent to limit recovery of punitive damages, those damages were available. Here, the Washington Court followed the United States Supreme Court's rationale and found that, like maintenance and cure, punitive damages were available for a general maritime unseaworthiness claim. The Washington Court reversed the trial court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Tabingo v. Am. Triumph LLC" on Justia Law