Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion Summaries

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Atlantic sought a declaratory judgment that the insurance policy it had issued to Coastal was void ab initio or, in the alternative, that there was no coverage for the loss of the barge or damage to an adjacent pier. District Court Judge Wexler passed away prior to issuing his findings of fact and conclusions of law. The case was transferred to Judge Azrack, who, after no party requested the recall of any witness under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 63, issued findings of fact and conclusions of law in her role as successor judge and entered judgment finding Atlantic liable to Coastal under the terms of the policy. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a)(6), factual findings of successor judges who have certified their familiarity with the record are subject to the "clearly erroneous" standard of review. The Second Circuit also held that, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 63, a successor judge is under no independent obligation to recall witnesses unless requested by one of the parties. In this case, the court found no reversible error in Judge Azrack's findings of fact and conclusions of law, including findings that Coastal did not breach its duty of uberrimae fidei, and thus the policy was not void; Atlantic failed to prove that the vessel was unseaworthy; the loss of the vessel was due to a "peril of the sea" and was covered by the policy; Coastal was entitled to damages for contractual payments withheld by its contractor for repairs to a pier; and Coastal proved its damages using only a summary spreadsheet of invoices, as evidence. View "Atlantic Specialty Insurance Co. v. Coastal Environmental Group Inc." on Justia Law

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After a shift foreman was injured and disabled while working on an oil and gas storage facility, he filed a claim with the Department under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. The ALJ found that the foreman fulfilled the Act's requirements, the Board affirmed the ALJ's findings, and IMTT petitioned for review. The Fifth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the foreman fulfilled the Act's situs requirement; he was engaged in maritime employment; he had not reached maximum medical improvement; and he adequately sought alternative employment. View "International-Matex Tank Terminals v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for engaging in drug trafficking activity, and conspiring to do so, in violation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. The court held that defendant waived his Confrontation Clause and jury trial right challenges to his conviction by pleading guilty. The court also held that the Due Process Clause did not require a nexus between the United States and the MDLEA violations that transpire on a vessel without nationality. The court explained that such prosecutions are not arbitrary, since any nation may exercise jurisdiction over stateless vessels, and they are not unfair, since persons who traffic drugs may be charged with knowledge that such activity is illegal and may be prosecuted somewhere. The court considered defendant's remaining arguments and found them meritless. View "United States v. Van Der End" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff, an employee of Centaur, was injured while offloading a generator from a crew boat to a barge, he filed suit against the owner and operator of the boat (River Ventures) and Centaur for vessel negligence under general maritime law and the Jones Act. River Ventures cross-claimed against Centaur for contractual indemnity, and the district court granted summary judgment to Centaur. The Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that the district court misapplied In re Larry Doiron, Inc., 879 F.3d 568 (5th Cir.) (en banc), cert. denied, 138 S. Ct. 2033 (2018), and erroneously concluded that the Dock Contract at issue was non-maritime. The court held that Doiron's two-part test applied as written to all mixed-services contracts: in order to be maritime, a contract must be for services to facilitate activity on navigable waters and must provide, or the parties must expect, that a vessel will play a substantial role in the completion of the contract. Applying the Doiron test, the court held that the Dock Contract at issue required services to be performed to facilitate the loading, offloading, and transportation of coal and petroleum coke via vessels on navigable waters. Furthermore, Doiron's second prong was satisfied where the Dock Contract made clear that the parties expected DB-582 to play a significant role in the completion of the work. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Barrios v. Centaur, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the denial of her petition to "vacate and/or alternatively to deny recognition and enforcement" of the foreign arbitral award in favor of her employer, Carnival, on her claims under the Jones Act and U.S. maritime law for injuries related to her carpal tunnel. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the petition, holding that plaintiff failed to establish that the foreign arbitral award offended the United States' most basic notions of morality and justice. Weighing the policies at issue and considering the specific unique factual circumstances of this case, the court held that plaintiff's Article V(2)(b) of the New York Convention defense failed. Therefore, the court held that the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's request that it refuse to enforce the arbitral award and dismissing her claims. View "Cvoro v. Carnival Corp." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the decision of the district court dismissing for failure to state a claim this suit challenging the federal government's decision not to waive indefinitely the cabotage provision of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria, holding that Plaintiffs lacked standing and dismissal was required on jurisdictional grounds. In this suit, Plaintiffs challenged the provision of the Jones Act, which applies to Puerto Rico and prohibits foreign-flag vessels from transporting merchandise between United States coastwise points. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The First Circuit vacated the judgment below and remanded for the claims to be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, holding that Plaintiffs, each of whom owned real estate and/or personal property in Puerto Rico, failed to set forth allegations in their complaint that were sufficient to establish standing. View "Perez-Kudzma v. United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Appellants' convictions for drug trafficking under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA), 46 U.S.C. 70501-70508, holding that the protective principle of international law permitted the United States to arrest and prosecute Appellants even if, as they argued, their vessel possessed Costa Rican nationality. Appellants were on a small speed boat in the western Caribbean Sea when they were interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard and subsequently arrested. Appellants moved to dismiss their indictment under the MDLEA, which allows U.S. law enforcement to arrest foreign nationals for drug crimes committed in international waters, arguing that the statute exceeds Congress's authority under Article I of the Constitution and violates the Due Process Clause. The district court denied the motion to dismiss, and Appellants pleaded guilty. On appeal, Appellants again challenged the constitutionality of the MDLEA, arguing that their vessel was not properly deemed stateless. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the protective principle of international law, as applied by the First Circuit, permits prosecution under the MDLEA even of foreigners on foreign vessels; and (2) there was no abuse of discretion in the sentence imposed. View "United States v. Davila-Reyes" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured on the deck of a ship, he filed suit against the United States, the ship's owner, for negligence under the Jones Act and unseaworthiness under general maritime law. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff, holding that no summary-judgment evidence, however it might have been developed, reached the fact of whether plaintiff slipped on grease. Furthermore, plaintiff's claim of unseaworthiness likewise failed. View "Jones v. United States" on Justia Law

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Defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, while on board a stateless vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, in violation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, 46 U.S.C. 70501 et seq. The Second Circuit dismissed the indictment, because the government failed to demonstrate, as required by section 70504, that the vessel was subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. In this case, the indictment should have been dismissed upon the government's failure to demonstrate at the pretrial hearing that the vessel was subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Furthermore, the error was not cured by defendants' subsequent defective guilty pleas. Accordingly, the court vacated the convictions. View "United States v. Prado" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied Wood Group's petition for review of the Board's conclusion that Wood Group's employee satisfied the situs and status requirements for coverage under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. In this case, the employee was injured while unloading a vessel on a platform customarily used for that task. The court held that the Board correctly applied the plain language of the Act and affirmed its conclusion that the employee met the situs requirement. Furthermore, because the employee's injury occurred when he was loading/unloading a vessel, and because he regularly loaded/unloaded vessels, the status requirement was satisfied. View "Wood Group Production Services v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs" on Justia Law