by
At 5:33 p.m. on April 18, 2013, a 14‐barge tow pushed by the M/V Dale Heller on the Illinois River was sucked into a powerful cross‐current and broke up. Some of the barges crashed (allided) into the Marseilles Dam; some sank; some were saved. The accident happened during record‐breaking rains and high water. A day later, the nearby town of Marseilles experienced significant flooding. Flood Claimants sued to recover for their flood damage. The district court ruled that the United States, which manages the Dam through its Army Corps of Engineers, was immune from suit for its role in the allision, and that the Corps was solely responsible for the accident. Flood Claimants appealed, arguing that the company that owns and operates the Dale Heller shared some of the blame because of its failure to follow inland navigation rules and its more general negligence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed; the facts found by the district court were not clearly erroneous, and those facts support the court’s assignment of sole responsibility to the Corps. Because of the discretionary function exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act, the Corps cannot be sued for the actions of its lockmaster, however negligent or inexplicable they may have been. View "Alexander v. Ingram Barge Co." on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of relief in an action brought by SCL Basilisk against Thorco for an order requiring the posting of a security by Agribusiness Savannah, Agribusiness United, Agribusiness United DMCC, and Sonada, in aid of a pending international arbitration in London, United Kingdom. The underlying petition arose out of a commercial dispute between the parties over the performance of a charter agreement. The court held that the relief sought by plaintiffs was not authorized by Rule B of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions, Georgia law, or principles of maritime law. View "SCL Basilisk AG v. Agribusiness United Savannah Logistics LLC" on Justia Law

by
After a tugboat collided with an oil-filled barge and caused 300,000 gallons of oil to spill in the Mississippi River, the United States filed suit against ACL, the statutorily-defined responsible party under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), 33 U.S.C. 2704(a), seeking a declaration that ACL was liable for all removal costs and damages, and to recover costs that it incurred. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the United States and final judgment ordering ACL to pay the United States $20 million. The court held that ACL failed to establish that it was entitled to the third-party defense because the conduct that caused the spill occurred "in connection" with DRD's contractual relationship with ACL. The court also held, in the alternative, that ACL was not entitled to OPA's general limit on liability because DRD's conduct fell within the exception from limited liability for spills proximately caused by gross negligence, willful misconduct, or federal regulatory violations. View "United States v. American Commercial Lines, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit declined to extend the reach of a maritime lien claim to encompass a pre-established purchase cost of items rented by a charterer pursuant to a temporary rental and service contract and affirmed the judgment of the district court limiting the in rem maritime lien claim of Appellant on the arrested ship, the M/V NOVA STAR. Appellant’s claim arose from its agreement with the ship’s charterer to rent linens and other items for the ship’s ferry service. The district court refused to grant Appellant’s maritime lien claim in its entirety and entered judgment for Appellant in the amount of $16,187. The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding (1) the court properly limited the maritime lien to the amount of $16,187; and (2) the court correctly concluded that the inventory remaining in Appellant’s warehouse in Westbrook, Maine was not “delivered” in a manner as to create a maritime lien for its replacement cost according to the default provision of the rental contract. View "Maine Uniform Rental, Inc. v. Nova Star M/V" on Justia Law

by
After claimant was injured while inspecting a moored barge, he filed claims against the barge company as his employer, the owner of the barge, and the operator of the rock processing facility, under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 30101‐30106, the Longshore and Harbor Workersʹ Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. 901‐950, general maritime law, and New York state law. The Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the Jones Act claims because claimant did not qualify as a ʺseamanʺ within the meaning of the Jones Act. However, the court held that the district court erred in dismissing certain of claimant's remaining claims against the owner of the barge and the operator of the rock processing facility. In this case, the district court erred in dismissing the LHWCA claim against Franz to the extent it was based on the alleged breach of Franzʹs duty, as owner, to turn over a reasonably safe vessel; and the state law claims against Tilcon for negligence, gross negligence, and violation of N.Y. Labor Law 200. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re Complaint of Buchanan Marine, L.P." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Wauquiez Boats, alleging claims for breach of maritime contract and for products liability under the general maritime law. The district court dismissed the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for failing adequately to demonstrate admiralty and maritime jurisdiction. However, plaintiff had filed an amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 roughly an hour before the district court filed its order dismissing the case. The Fourth Circuit reasoned that, because the amended complaint remained the operative complaint in the district court and was unaddressed by Wauquiez Boats or the court, the district court's order dismissing the original complaint and denying sanctions was not a final decision under 28 U.S.C. 1291. Accordingly, the court dismissed plaintiff's appeal and Wauquiez Boats' cross-appeal requesting sanctions, for lack of appellate jurisdiction. View "Fawzy v. Wauquiez Boats SNC" on Justia Law

by
Rubi, a U.S. citizen, is the Director of 7R Holdings LLC, which has its principal place of business in Puerto Rico. Holdings holds 7R Charters, which owned M/Y Olga, a yacht registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Calot captains Olga. Using email and the telephone, Calot, while in Puerto Rico, hired Trotter, while in Florida, to work as a chef on Olga. Trotter boarded Olga in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Days later, Olga traveled to Scrub Island, BVI, and let down its anchor. Trotter allegedly sustained an injury while descending stairs to the dock, was treated for her alleged injuries at a BVI hospital, and returned to Florida. Trotter sued Rubi, Holdings, and Olga in the District Court of the Virgin Islands under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 30104, and general maritime laws. The court dismissed, citing forum non conveniens. The Third Circuit affirmed, applying the general presumption that the possibility of a change in substantive law should ordinarily not be given substantial weight in the forum non-conveniens inquiry, because the remedy provided by the alternative forum is not clearly inadequate and because the Jones Act does not contain a special venue provision. The court did not abuse its discretion in exercising its forum non-conveniens power after reasonably balancing the relevant private and public interest factors. View "Trotter v. 7R Holdings LLC" on Justia Law

by
The widows of deceased husbands who served in the U.S. Navy alleged that their husbands contracted cancer caused by exposure to asbestos-containing insulation and components that were added onto ship’s engines, pumps, boilers, blowers, generators, switchboards, steam traps, and other devices. The manufacturer-defendants each made their products “bare metal.” If they manufactured an engine, they shipped it without any asbestos-containing insulation materials that would later be added. Following a remand, the district court applied the bright-line rule version of the bare-metal defense and clarified that summary judgment had been entered in favor of the manufacturers on both the strict liability and negligence claims. The court reasoned that the rule approach was best because maritime law favors uniformity. The Third Circuit vacated, stating that it surveyed “bedrock principles of maritime law” and concluded that they permit a manufacturer of even a bare-metal product to be held liable for asbestos-related injuries when circumstances indicate the injury was a reasonably foreseeable result of the manufacturer’s actions, at least in the context of a negligence claim. The court affirmed summary judgment on the product liability claims. View "In re: Asbestos Products Liability Litigation" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSCLA), 43 U.S.C. 1331 et seq., charges against the contractor defendants for failure to state an offense. The court assumed arguendo that section 1350(c) may expose contractors and subcontractors to criminal liability and held that the regulations did not apply to nor do they potentially criminalize defendants' conduct. The court also held that regulations that were specifically directed at lessees and permittees did not extend penalties to contractors and individuals; because the applicable regulatory definitions unambiguously exclude contractors, more general liability provisions did not control; and no prior judicial decision countenanced this action, which was at odds with a half century of agency policy. View "United States v. Moss" on Justia Law

by
Christopher Columbus owns and operates the passenger vessel “Ben Franklin Yacht,” which provides cruise services on the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Bocchino was a patron on a Ben Franklin cruise on May 3, 2013, when, in a “drunken brawl,” he was apparently “assaulted on the vessel and/or in the parking lot near the dock” by “unknown patrons of the cruise and/or agents, servant[s], workmen and/or employees’” of Christopher Columbus. Bocchino filed a state court suit, alleging negligence. Christopher Columbus then filed its Complaint for Exoneration From or Limitation of Liability in federal court. The district determined that the test for maritime jurisdiction had not been met and dismissed the limitation action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Third Circuit vacated. The federal courts have the power to hear “all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction,” U.S. Const. art. III, sect. 2, cl. 1; 28 U.S.C. 1333(1). The location aspect of the jurisdictional test is satisfied because the alleged tort occurred on the Delaware River and carrying passengers for hire on a vessel on navigable waters is substantially related to traditional maritime activity. Such an incident has the potential to disrupt maritime commerce. View "Christopher Columbus LLC v. Bocchino" on Justia Law