Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion Summaries
Caldwell v. St. Charles Gaming Company
The Court of Appeal granted summary judgment to plaintiff St. Charles Gaming Company d/b/a Isle of Capri Casino Lake Charles ("Grand Palais"), holding the casino was a :vessel" for the purposes of general maritime law. The decision contradicted Benoit v. St. Charles Gaming Company, LLC, 233 So. 3d 615, cert. denied, 139 S. Ct. 104 (2018), which held the Grand Palais was not a vessel. Plaintiff Don Caldwell worked for Grand Palais Riverboat, LLC, and was injured when the gangway attached to the riverboat malfunctioned and collapsed. Plaintiff petitioned for damages, alleging the Grand Palais was a vessel under general maritime law, and that he was a seaman under the Jones Act at the time of the accident. After a de novo review of the record, the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded the Grand Palais was a not vessel under general maritime law. Therefore, it reversed the judgment of the court of appeal and granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing plaintiff’s suit. View "Caldwell v. St. Charles Gaming Company" on Justia Law
Troutman v. Seaboard Atlantic Ltd.
After plaintiff was injured while working as a longshoreman, he filed suit against Seaboard, seeking to hold them liable under the Longshore Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). Plaintiff fell from a walkway on the upper deck of the ship where he was working and sustained serious injuries. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Seaboard on plaintiff's negligence claim, holding that the exposed walkway was an open and obvious hazard that plaintiff could have avoided with the exercise of reasonable care. Therefore, the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's claim. View "Troutman v. Seaboard Atlantic Ltd." on Justia Law
Dantzler, Inc. v. S2 Services Puerto Rico, LLC
The First Circuit vacated the district court's order denying in part Defendants' motions to dismiss this suit brought Plaintiffs, a putative class of shippers who use the services of ocean freight carriers to import goods into Puerto Rico through the Port of San Juan, holding that Plaintiffs lacked standing to sue for a declaration that the collection of a fee from the carriers was unlawful. Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from a cargo scanning program implemented by the Puerto Rico Ports Authority (PRPA). Pursuant to that program, PRPA contracted with Rapiscan Systems, Inc. to provide the technology and services needed to scan all containerized inbound cargo. Rapsican assigned its rights and obligations to S2 Services Puerto Rico LLC (S2). PRPA charged ocean freight carriers a fee for their use of the of the scanning facilities at the maritime port. Plaintiffs sued PRPA, Rapiscan, and S2 (collectively, Defendants) alleging that, in response to the fee, the carriers were forced to be collection agents that collected fees from the shipper entities. The district court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motions to dismiss. The First Circuit remanded this case for dismissal on jurisdictional grounds, holding that Plaintiffs failed to set forth allegations that were sufficient to establish their standing. View "Dantzler, Inc. v. S2 Services Puerto Rico, LLC" on Justia Law
Luwisch v. American Marine Corp.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that American Marine was liable for most of plaintiff's injuries. Plaintiff was working as a seaman for American Marine when he was injured on board a vessel owned by the employer. The court held that American Marine has failed to demonstrate that the district court’s finding of unseaworthiness was clear error; American Marine failed to establish that plaintiff's accident was mostly his own fault where the district court clearly evaluated the evidence and made no inconsistent findings about causation, finding plaintiff 20 percent at fault; American Marine failed to carry its burden of demonstrating clear error in the district court's choice between competing experts; the district court's finding of diminished earning capacity was not clearly erroneous; in regard to the district court's award of past medical expenses because of American Marine's negligence, plaintiff's failure to prove that he was obliged to reimburse his attorneys for his medical expenses is irrelevant; and the district court did not clearly err in crediting plaintiff's testimony about his current condition. View "Luwisch v. American Marine Corp." on Justia Law
CITGO Asphalt Refining Co. v. Frescati Shipping Co.
CARCO sub-chartered an oil tanker from tanker operator Star, which had chartered it from Frescati. During the tanker’s journey, an abandoned ship anchor punctured the tanker’s hull, causing 264,000 gallons of heavy crude oil to spill into the Delaware River. The 1990 Oil Pollution Act, 33 U.S.C. 2702(a), required Frescati, the vessel’s owner, to cover the cleanup costs. Frescati’s liability was limited to $45 million. The federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund reimbursed Frescati for an additional $88 million in cleanup costs. Frescati and the government sued, claiming that CARCO had breached a clause in the subcharter agreement that obligated CARCO to select a berth that would allow the vessel to come and go “always safely afloat,” and that obligation amounted to a warranty regarding the safety of the selected berth. Finding that Frescati was an implied third-party beneficiary of the safe-berth clause, the Third Circuit held that the clause embodied an express warranty of safety. The Supreme Court affirmed. The safe-berth clause's unqualified plain language establishes an absolute warranty of safety. That the clause does not expressly invoke the term “warranty” does not alter the charterer’s duty, which is not subject to qualifications or conditions. Under contract law, an obligor is strictly liable for a breach of contract, regardless of fault or diligence. While parties are free to contract for limitations on liability, these parties did not. A limitation on the charterer’s liability for losses due to “perils of the seas,” does not apply nor does a clause requiring Star to obtain oil-pollution insurance relieve CARCO of liability. View "CITGO Asphalt Refining Co. v. Frescati Shipping Co." on Justia Law
MMR Constructors, Inc. v. Director, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the Board's order awarding benefits to claimant under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. The court held that claimant was on navigable waters at the time of injury and thus his case was controlled by Dir., OWCP, U.S. Dep't of Labor v. Perini N. River Assocs., 459 U.S. 297, 299 (1983). In this case, because claimant was regularly employed by MMR on navigable waters and, under Perini, meets the "employee" definition, it follows that MMR had at least one employee engaged in maritime employment. View "MMR Constructors, Inc. v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs" on Justia Law
ING Bank, N.V. v. Bulk Finland M/V, No. 9691577
Bomin filed suit asserting an in rem claim for a maritime lien against a ship to which it supplied fuel bunkers under a contract with one of the affiliates of O.W. Bunker. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to ING and DryLog. The court held that Bomin did not have a maritime lien, because it was not acting on the orders of either the vessel's owners or their authorized agent when it supplied the fuel. View "ING Bank, N.V. v. Bulk Finland M/V, No. 9691577" on Justia Law
Chartis Property Casualty Co. v. Inganamort
The Inganamorts docked their 65-foot fishing vessel behind their part-time Boca Raton, Florida residence. In 2011, while they were at their New Jersey home, the ship sank enough to sustain serious damage. They reported the loss to their insurer, Chartis, with whom they had an all-risk policy. Chartis sent a claims specialist, who reported three inches of standing water in the starboard forward cabin bilge and multiple potential sources of water ingress, including a hole in the hull the size of a screw. He found that the electrical breakers were severely rust-stained and blackened from an electrical failure; subsequent testing revealed obvious water intrusion. The final review confirmed the initial findings and identified that the battery charger was not working; without a source of power, the ship’s bilge pumps had ceased functioning. Chartis sought a declaratory judgment that it was not liable for the damage and claimed that the Inganamorts were liable for misrepresentation. The Inganmorts neither filed a statement of facts nor opposed Chartis’s statement of undisputed facts. The district court treated Chartis’s statement of facts as undisputed and granted Chartic summary judgment, finding that the Inganamorts “ha[d] no evidence to demonstrate a fortuitous loss[.]” The Third Circuit affirmed. An insured bears the burden of proving fortuity; the Inganamorts did not meet that burden. View "Chartis Property Casualty Co. v. Inganamort" on Justia Law
McHenry v. Asylum Entertainment Delaware, LLC
After a seaman's hands were injured on a commercial fishing vessel out on the Gulf of Mexico and he ultimately loss some of his fingers due to infection, he filed suit against the vessel's owner and the production company that was filming a reality TV show on the vessel. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to the production company, holding that the production company was not liable under the Jones Act because plaintiff was not an "employee" or a "borrowed servant" to the production company. The court declined to construe the borrowed servant doctrine in the maritime context to impose a duty upon passengers and observers on a vessel to undertake acts inconsistent with the orders of the vessel's captain. The court also held that the production company was not liable under maritime tort law because there were not genuine issues of material fact as to whether the production company had a "special relationship" with plaintiff, the production company's rescue attempts were grossly negligent, and the production company acted negligently in taking charge of a "helpless" person. View "McHenry v. Asylum Entertainment Delaware, LLC" on Justia Law
Sanchez v. Smart Fabricators of Texas, LLC
After plaintiff was injured when he tripped on a pipe welded to the deck of a jacked-up offshore drilling rig, he filed a negligence action against Smart Fabricators under the Jones Act. The district court denied plaintiff's motion to remand to state court, granting Smart Fabricator's motion for summary judgment. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not err in holding that plaintiff was not a Jones Act seaman. The court affirmed the district court's reasoning in distinguishing Naquin v. Elevating Boats, LLC, a 2014 case in which the court considered the "substantial nature" component of the seaman test. In this case, plaintiff's duties are readily distinguishable from Naquin's because plaintiff worked on drilling rigs only "while they were jacked up on the sea floor, with the body of the rig out of the water and not subject to waves, tides, or other water movement." Furthermore, while Naquin's workplace remained subject to the vicissitudes of a navigable waterway, plaintiff's workplace was stable, flat, and well above the water. Moreover, plaintiff did not perform "tasks requiring operating or navigating the rigs." Rather, the court explained that plaintiff was a welder, and he was injured when he tripped on a pipe welded to the floor, a circumstance unrelated to any perils of the sea. View "Sanchez v. Smart Fabricators of Texas, LLC" on Justia Law