Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion Summaries

by
The case involves Century Aluminum Company and its subsidiaries (Century), and Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's, London (Lloyd's). Century uses river barges to transport alumina ore and other materials for its aluminum smelting operations. In 2017, the Army Corps of Engineers closed key locks on the Ohio River, causing Century to seek alternative transportation. Century filed a claim with Lloyd's, its maritime cargo insurance policy provider, for the unanticipated shipping expenses. While Lloyd's paid $1 million under the policy's Extra Expense Clause, it denied coverage for the rest of the claim.The case was first heard by the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. Century sought a declaration that its denied claims were covered by the insurance policy and requested damages for Lloyd's alleged breach of contract among other violations of Kentucky insurance law. Lloyd's sought summary judgment, arguing that the policy did not cover the claims. The district court sided with Lloyd's.The appeal was heard before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Century argued that the policy's All Risks Clause, Risks Covered Clause, Shipping Expenses Clause, and Sue and Labour Clause required Lloyd's to cover the additional shipping expenses. The court rejected these arguments, affirming the district court's ruling. The court held that under the All Risks Clause and Risks Covered Clause, Century's alumina did not suffer any physical loss or damage. As for the Shipping Expenses Clause, it covered the risk of a failed delivery, not an untimely one. Lastly, under the Sue and Labour Clause, Century was required to mitigate Lloyd's exposure under the policy, but it did not obligate Lloyd's to pay anything for reducing losses that fall outside the policy. View "Century Aluminum Co. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's, London" on Justia Law

by
In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to vacate the plaintiffs' quasi in rem attachment of a vessel owned by Bergshav Aframax Ltd., a defendant in an admiralty action seeking fulfillment of arbitration awards. The arbitration awards were owed to the plaintiffs by B-Gas Ltd., renamed Bepalo, a different corporate entity. The plaintiffs tried to hold Aframax liable for the arbitration awards by arguing that Aframax and Bepalo were alter egos, essentially the same entity.However, the court found that the plaintiffs failed to show a reasonable probability of success on their veil piercing theory, which would be required to establish that Aframax and Bepalo were alter egos. The court found that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate that Bepalo was dominated and controlled by the Bergshav Group, the parent corporate group of Aframax. The court noted that the minority shareholders of Bepalo exercised independent judgment in approving the relevant transactions, countering the claim that the Bergshav Group had total domination of Bepalo. Therefore, the court concluded that the plaintiffs had not met their burden of demonstrating a reasonable probability of success on their veil-piercing claim, leading to the affirmation of the district court's decision to vacate the attachment of the vessel. View "SIKOUSIS LEGACY, INC. V. B-GAS LIMITED" on Justia Law

by
The United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit heard an appeal from Herbert Hardimon against the American River Transportation Company, LLC (ARTCO). Hardimon worked on a flat deck crane barge and was injured after slipping on ice on the deck and falling into the freezing Mississippi River. This incident occurred the day after barges controlled by ARTCO had broken away from their moorings and struck Hardimon's barge, damaging a hatch cover.Hardimon filed a general maritime negligence claim against ARTCO, which was dismissed by a magistrate judge who concluded that Hardimon failed to demonstrate that his injuries were proximately caused by ARTCO. Hardimon appealed this decision.The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's dismissal, stating that Hardimon's injury was not a foreseeable result of the barge collision. It ruled that while Hardimon may have been within the general class of victims foreseeable to ARTCO, the harm was not. The court found that the general sort of harm in this case—slipping on ice on the deck of a barge—was not within the class of harms ARTCO should reasonably be expected to foresee resulting from its negligent barge mooring.Hardimon also claimed he was a rescuer coming to the aid of the damaged barge, asserting that ARTCO owed him a duty of care. The court rejected this argument, stating the complaint failed to allege that he was injured while attempting to rescue the barge or that he was responding to an exigent or dangerous situation. View "Hardimon v. American River Transportation Company, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a dispute over the legality of an agreement between River 1, LLC, an American company, and Viking USA LLC, a subsidiary of a Swiss company, under federal maritime law. The United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) had confirmed the legality of the agreement as a "time charter" under 46 U.S.C. § 56101(a)(i). However, American Cruise Lines argued that the agreement should be construed as a "bareboat" charter which is not covered under the standing blanket approval of MARAD, and thus, grants a foreign company impermissible control of an American vessel.The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed MARAD's decision. It found that the agreement didn't grant Viking exclusive possession and control of the cruise ship in a way that blackletter maritime law recognizes as sufficient to create a bareboat charter. It noted that the ship's crew was provided by River 1, the vessel master was overseen by River 1, and River 1 bore primary responsibility for the ship’s day-to-day maintenance and care. Viking's ability to set the itinerary was consistent with the maritime law definition of a time charter.The court also rejected American Cruise Lines' allegations that MARAD failed to follow the notice and comment provisions applicable to this case. It concluded that MARAD fully complied with the new procedural requirements imposed by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021. View "American Cruise Lines v. United States of America" on Justia Law

by
This case involves a maritime personal injury claim brought by Plaintiff Shanon Roy Santee against his employer, Oceaneering International, Inc., and two other companies, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling, Inc. and Chevron USA, Inc. Santee was a remote-operated vehicle (ROV) technician working on a drillship, the Deepwater Conqueror. He sustained an injury while replacing a part on one of the ROVs and subsequently sued the three companies under the Jones Act, general maritime law, and the Saving to Suitors Clause.The defendants removed the case to the Southern District of Texas, arguing that the federal court had jurisdiction under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). Santee moved to remand the case to state court, arguing he was a "seaman" under the Jones Act. The district court denied the motion and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The appellate court agreed that Santee was not a seaman under the Jones Act, so his Jones Act claims were fraudulently pleaded. The court also found that the district court had original jurisdiction under the OCSLA because the drillship was on the Outer Continental Shelf at the time of Santee's injury. Consequently, Santee's only remedy was under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.The court also found no error in the district court's decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendants on Santee's negligence and unseaworthiness claims. It concluded that the defendants did not breach their duties to Santee, and Santee failed to show that additional discovery would have created a genuine issue of material fact. View "Santee v. Oceaneering Intl." on Justia Law

by
In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit examined a dispute over Final Amendment 53 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico. Commercial fishers challenged the amendment, which modified the allocation of red grouper between commercial and recreational sectors, for relying on inconsistent economic analyses and failing to comply with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.The commercial fishers argued that the Final Amendment 53 arbitrarily relied on an economic analysis that the Fisheries Service had previously rejected and that it lacked the required catch limits and accountability measures. They also claimed that the amendment violated National Standards 4 and 9 of the Act.The court agreed with the commercial fishers in part, affirming that the Fisheries Service had failed to adequately explain its reliance on the disputed economic analysis and that further analysis was needed to determine how this influenced the application of National Standards 4 and 9. However, it also affirmed that Final Amendment 53 complied with the Act's requirement to establish a mechanism for specifying annual catch limits.As a result, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part the grant of summary judgment to the Secretary of Commerce. It remanded the case, without vacating the Final Rule implementing Final Amendment 53, so the Fisheries Service could further explain its economic methodology and the implications for National Standards 4 and 9. View "A.P. Bell Fish Company, Inc. v. Raimondo" on Justia Law

by
In a maritime insurance dispute between Great Lakes Insurance, a German company, and Raiders Retreat Realty, a Pennsylvania company, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that choice-of-law provisions in maritime contracts are presumptively enforceable under federal maritime law, with certain narrow exceptions not applicable in this case.The dispute originated when Raiders Retreat Realty's boat ran aground, and Great Lakes Insurance denied coverage, alleging that Raiders breached the insurance contract by failing to maintain the boat’s fire-suppression system. The insurance contract contained a choice-of-law provision that selected New York law to govern future disputes. Raiders argued that Pennsylvania law, not New York law, should apply. The District Court ruled in favor of Great Lakes, finding that the choice-of-law provision was presumptively valid and enforceable under federal maritime law. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals vacated this decision, holding that choice-of-law provisions must yield to the strong public policy of the state where the suit is brought.The Supreme Court reversed the Third Circuit's decision, emphasizing the importance of uniformity and predictability in maritime law. The Court concluded that choice-of-law provisions allow maritime actors to avoid later disputes and the ensuing litigation and costs, thus promoting maritime commerce. Therefore, such provisions are presumptively enforceable under federal maritime law. The Court further clarified that exceptions to this rule exist but are narrow, and none of them applied in this case. View "Great Lakes Insurance SE v. Raiders Retreat Realty Co." on Justia Law

by
In this case heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the plaintiff's wife died during a scuba and snorkeling tour from Lahaina Harbor to Molokini Crater, an atoll off the coast of Maui, Hawaii. Before the tour, the plaintiff and his wife each signed a waiver document releasing their rights to sue the defendants. The plaintiff's claims were based on gross negligence and simple negligence. The defendants argued that the waiver and release were an affirmative defense to the claims based on simple negligence. However, the district court struck the defense, stating that the liability waivers were void under 46 U.S.C. § 30527(a), which prohibits certain liability waivers for vessels transporting passengers between ports in the United States or between a port in the United States and a port in a foreign country.The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order and held that the term "between ports in the United States" in 46 U.S.C. § 30527(a) refers to transportation between at least two separate ports in the United States. Therefore, the statute does not apply to vessels that transport passengers away from and back to a single port without stopping at any other port. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "EHART V. LAHAINA DIVERS, INC." on Justia Law

by
This case involves a lawsuit against the United States for allegations of negligence in a search-and-rescue mission by the U.S. Coast Guard. The plaintiffs, the estate of Aaron Greenberg (who drowned in a boating accident), Adrian Avena (who survived the accident), and AA Commercial, LLC, claimed that the Coast Guard was negligent in its response to the distress signal from their capsized vessel. They argued that the Coast Guard broadcasted incorrect information about the vessel in distress and did not deploy the closest helicopter for the rescue mission.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the case, stating that the United States was immune from such a suit. According to the court, the plaintiffs failed to show how the Coast Guard's alleged negligence "increased the risk of physical harm" to Greenberg. The court noted that under the "Good Samaritan" doctrine, the Coast Guard would only be liable if its actions increased the risk of harm or if harm was suffered because of the plaintiffs' reliance on the Coast Guard. In this case, the court found that even if the Coast Guard had done nothing, the outcome would have been the same, thus the Coast Guard did not increase the risk of harm to Greenberg.Furthermore, the court denied the plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend their complaint, stating it would be futile as they had not identified any set of facts that could demonstrate how the Coast Guard's actions increased the risk of physical harm to Greenberg. View "Avena v. Avena" on Justia Law

by
In a personal injury lawsuit, Carelyn Fylling sued Royal Caribbean Cruises for negligence after she tripped, fell, and hit her head while entering a deck on one of their cruise ships. The case was tried before a jury in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. During the trial, the court became aware that one of the jurors had a niece who worked for Royal Caribbean. Despite this potential conflict of interest, the court did not remove or question this juror about any potential bias, and allowed her to participate in deliberations. The jury found Royal Caribbean negligent, but also found Fylling comparative-negligent, reducing her recovery by ninety percent. Fylling appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, arguing that the lower court abused its discretion by not investigating the potential bias of the juror related to an employee of the defendant.The Eleventh Circuit agreed with Fylling. The court held that the district court abused its discretion by not investigating whether the juror could impartially discharge her responsibilities once it became aware of her potential bias. The court explained that when a district court becomes aware of potential juror bias, it is required to develop the factual circumstances sufficiently to make an informed judgment as to whether bias exists. A district court's obligation to protect the right to an impartial jury does not end when the jury is impaneled and sworn. The Eleventh Circuit therefore reversed the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. View "Fylling v. Royal Carribean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law