Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
Ranger v. Alamitos Bay Yacht Club
Plaintiff fell while stepping from a dock to a boat. He sued his employer—a yacht club in Long Beach—under federal admiralty law. The trial court sustained the club’s final demurrer to the second amended complaint. The court ruled there was no admiralty jurisdiction. The Second Appellate District affirmed the court’s ruling without deciding about admiralty jurisdiction. The court explained that Congress in 1984 specified employees covered by state workers’ compensation law working at a “club” are covered by state workers’ compensation law and not federal law if they are eligible for state workers’ compensation. The court wrote that Plaintiff concedes the yacht club is a “club.” Federal law thus makes California state workers’ compensation law paramount, which means Plaintiff’s exclusive remedy is workers’ compensation. The court wrote that a core part of the state workers’ compensation bargain is that injured workers get speedy and predictable relief irrespective of fault. In return, workers are barred from suing their employers in tort. Thus, the trial court correctly dismissed Plaintiff’s tort suit against his employer. View "Ranger v. Alamitos Bay Yacht Club" on Justia Law
Curtin Maritime Corp. v. Pacific Dredge etc.
Curtin Maritime Corp. (Curtin) filed suit against its competitor, Pacific Dredge and Construction, LLC (Pacific), asserting one cause of action for violation of the Unfair Competition Law. The parties operated dredging vessels, and competed for contracts awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). In its complaint, Curtin alleged Pacific was ineligible for two contracts it was awarded over Curtin because its vessel was not “entirely” built in the United States, a violation of the federal Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (commonly referred to as the Jones Act), and Pacific defrauded the Coast Guard in its successful application for certification that the vessel was U.S.-built. These allegations served as the sole basis for Curtin’s UCL claim. In response to the complaint, Pacific brought a motion under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 to strike Curtin’s claim, asserting it arose from protected speech and that Curtin could not show a probability of prevailing on the merits of its claim. The trial court agreed with Pacific that the claim arose from protected activity, but concluded Curtin had met its burden at this early stage of litigation to show the claim had minimal merit and denied the motion. Pacific appealed the ruling, contending the trial court erred because the claim was preempted by the Jones Act. After Pacific filed its notice of appeal, Curtin dismissed the underlying lawsuit and moved to dismiss the appeal as moot. Pacific opposed the motion, asserting the appeal was viable since reversal of the trial court’s order would provide Pacific the opportunity to seek attorney fees under the anti-SLAPP statute. The Court of Appeal agreed with Pacific that the appeal was not moot, and dismissal of the appeal was not appropriate. Further, the Court concluded Curtin did not show a probability of prevailing on the merits of its claim. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court’s order denying Pacific’s motion to strike, and directed the trial court to reinstate the case and issue an order granting the anti-SLAPP motion and striking Curtin’s claim. View "Curtin Maritime Corp. v. Pacific Dredge etc." on Justia Law
Haytasingh v. City of San Diego
Plaintiffs Michael and Crystal Haytasingh appealed a judgment entered in favor of defendants, City of San Diego (City) and Ashley Marino, a City lifeguard. Plaintiffs sued defendants after an incident that occurred at Mission Beach in San Diego in August 2013, while Michael Haytasingh was surfing and defendant Marino was operating a City-owned personal watercraft. Plaintiffs alleged Marino was operating her personal watercraft parallel to Haytasingh, inside the surf line, when she made an abrupt left turn in front of him. In order to avoid an imminent collision with Marino, Haytasingh dove off of his surfboard and struck his head on the ocean floor. Haytasingh suffered serious injuries. Plaintiffs alleged that Marino was negligent in her operation of the personal watercraft. Prior to trial, the trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment on plaintiffs’ negligence cause of action, finding Government Code section 831.7 provided complete immunity to defendants on the plaintiffs’ negligence cause of action. After that ruling, plaintiffs amended their complaint to allege they were entitled to relief pursuant to two statutory exceptions to the immunity provided in section 831.7. The case proceeded to trial, and a jury ultimately found in favor of defendants. On appeal, plaintiffs contended the trial court erred in concluding that the immunity granted to public entities and their employees under section 831.7 barred plaintiffs from pursuing a cause of action for ordinary negligence against the City and Marino. Plaintiffs also contended the trial court erred when it concluded, prior to instructing the jury, that the City and its lifeguards were not required to comply with the state’s basic speed law set forth in Harbors and Navigation Code section 655.2. Plaintiffs contended the court’s instructional error with respect to the speed limit issue constituted reversible error because the state’s basic speed law was relevant to the standard of care that Marino was obliged to meet, and was therefore relevant to whether Marino’s conduct constituted an extreme departure from the standard of care. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court did not err in determining that section 831.7 provided defendants with complete immunity with respect to the plaintiffs’ cause of action for ordinary negligence, given that Haytasingh’s injuries arose from his participation in a hazardous recreational activity on public property. However, the Court also concluded the trial court erred in determining that Harbors and Navigation Code section 655.2’s five mile per hour speed limit did not apply to City lifeguards, and in instructing the jury that all employees of governmental agencies acting within their official capacities were exempt from the City’s five mile per hour speed limit for water vessels that are within 1,000 feet of a beach under San Diego Municipal Code. This error, the Court held, was prejudicial. It therefore reversed judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Haytasingh v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law
Manson Construction Co. v. County of Contra Costa
Manson owns heavy marine construction and dredging equipment, including 60 specialized vessels and over 50 barges. After the Contra Costa County Assessor’s Office assessed property taxes on the value of Manson’s vessels for tax years 2013 and 2014, Manson filed administrative appeals, claiming some of its vessels were exempt from taxation under the Vessel Use Exemption, which provides that “[v]essels of more than 50 tons burden in this State and engaged in the transportation of freight or passengers” “are exempt from property taxation,” Cal. Const. art. XIII, section 3(l). The Board denied Manson’s appeals.The trial court and court of appeal affirmed. Manson did not establish that anyone owned or controlled the sludge it dredged, or that the dredged material could be considered goods, delivered from a consignor to a consignee. The dump scows and barges were moved from the harbor to disposal sites for the purpose of being emptied out so that they could return to the harbor and continue to perform the work for which they were hired; the carrying of the dredged material from the harbor to the disposal sites was merely a necessary byproduct of, and incidental to, that dredging work. Manson’s vessels were engaged in dredging, not in the transportation of goods for hire. View "Manson Construction Co. v. County of Contra Costa" on Justia Law
Prickett v. Bonnier Corp.
This case arose from a movie-making accident. After her father was injured diving in French Polynesia, Mira Chloe Prickett sued Bonnier Corporation and World Publications, LLC (collectively Bonnier) for compensatory and punitive damages under general maritime law. The trial court granted a judgment on the pleadings against her on the grounds that neither compensatory damages for loss of her father’s society nor punitive damages were available under general maritime law. Appellant Prickett did not cite on appeal any admiralty authority that would allow a child to recover loss of society damages for a nonfatal injury to a non-seaman on the high seas, and – without legislative impetus or compelling logic for such a result – the Court of Appeal declined to do so. The trial court's judgment was affirmed. View "Prickett v. Bonnier Corp." 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
Korman v. Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd.
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order dismissing plaintiff's complaint against Princess Cruise Lines. Plaintiff's action stemmed from injuries he suffered while he was a passenger on a cruise ship operated by Princess. The court held that the lack of a reporter's transcript did not require affirmances based on an inadequate record; although plaintiff's action was not filed "in a forum outside this state," the statutes governing forum non conveniens motions apply here to determine the enforceability of the forum selection clause; the forum selection clause in this case was mandatory and required that suit be brought in federal court; and the court rejected plaintiff's claims that the enforcement of the mandatory selection clause would be unreasonable. View "Korman v. Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd." on Justia Law