Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Reinier Fuentes v. Classica Cruise Operator Ltd, Inc.
Plaintiff and his wife were passengers on a cruise aboard a ship operated by Defendant. A verbal altercation between Plaintiff and another passenger ensued and while the security officer turned to speak to Plaintiff, the other passenger punched Plaintiff in the face. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant was negligent because it failed to (a) reasonably and properly train security personnel; (b) have adequate security measures, including adequate security presence and surveillance cameras; (c) warn him of the danger of being physically assaulted while onboard the vessel; (d) promulgate and enforce policies and procedures designed to prevent passengers from physically assaulting other passengers; and (e) exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, ruling that there was no evidence suggesting that Defendant had actual or constructive notice of the risk of harm. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to Defendant and denied Plaintiff’s motion for sanctions. The court held that Plaintiff has not presented sufficient evidence to create an issue of fact as to whether Defendant had actual notice that any passengers would attack him. The court reasoned that in the context of passenger-on-passenger violence, a cruise line has a duty to warn and/or protect when it or its employees reasonably apprehend the danger such that the attack was foreseeable. However, while the presence of a security officer during disembarkation connotes some awareness of the importance of order, a verbal dispute does not provide actual notice that a physical assault is to follow. View "Reinier Fuentes v. Classica Cruise Operator Ltd, Inc." on Justia Law
Wooley v. N&W Marine Towing
N&W filed a maritime limitation action in federal district court after Plaintiff was injured on a ship owned by N&W Marine Towing. The district court initially stayed Plaintiff from prosecuting claims against N&W in other forums, however, the court lifted its stay after Plaintiff made certain stipulations.The Fifth Circuit reasoned that under the Limitation of Liability Act, shipowners “may bring a civil action in a district court of the United States for limitation of liability.” The Limitation Act allows shipowners to limit their liability for an array of incidents, as long as the incident giving rise to liability occurred without the p knowledge of the owner.Here, after N&W filed its limitation action, three parties filed claims: Wooley, Turn Services, and RCC. However, RCC and N&W settled, and Turn Services assigned its claims to Plaintiff, leaving him as the only remaining claimant. The court found that Plaintiff’s stipulation both recognized the district court’s exclusive jurisdiction over the limitation proceeding and stated that Plaintiff would not seek to enforce a damage award greater than the value of the ship and its freight until the district court had adjudicated the limitation proceeding. Thus, the court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion by lifting the stay and allowing Plaintiff to pursue remedies in other forums. Further, the court found that N&W’s arguments regarding removal are not relevant to the issue of whether the district court abused its discretion by lifting the stay. View "Wooley v. N&W Marine Towing" on Justia Law
In re: Application of Newbrook
Nadella Corporation bought a ship, the MV Falcon Carrier, for scrap from Falcon Carrier Shipping Limited. Unbeknownst to Nadella, the ship was encumbered by a $368,000 debt. To recover that debt, the debt holder “arrested” Nadella’s new ship. Nadella then tried to recover that debt from the ship’s seller Falcon Carrier Shipping. Newbrook Shipping—the owner of those two ships arrested by Nadella—sued Nadella in South Africa and was considering another lawsuit in Nevis. Newbrook applied in Maryland federal court for an ex parte order under Sec. 1782 authorizing discovery from Nadella’s purported parent company, Global Marketing Systems. The district court rejected discovery for the speculative “proceeding” in Nevis but then granted the full application.On appeal, Global Marketing argues that the district court substantively erred in granting the entire application and approving service of process. The court stated that Sec. 1782 identifies four mandatory conditions that must be satisfied before an application can be granted. Here, the last condition, that the evidence sought must be “for use” in a foreign proceeding, is not fully satisfied.The court held that Section 1782 gives litigants access to federal courts to obtain discovery for use in international litigation. But that access is not unlimited. The district court erred by granting the full application when it held the speculative proceeding in Nevis did not provide a basis for Sec. 1782 discovery. The court remanded for the district court to consider Global Marketing’s arguments. View "In re: Application of Newbrook" on Justia Law
Tango Marine, S.A. v. Elephant Group, Ltd.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's refusal to vacate a second default judgment against the Elephant Group. The court concluded that the district court had jurisdiction over the Elephant Group, and that the Elephant Group failed to present a meritorious defense, as opposed to mere legal conclusions.In this case, Tango Marine, a Grecian corporation, filed suit in district court against the Elephant Group, two Nigerian businesses, seeking maritime attachment and garnishment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Supplemental Rule B. Tango Marine subsequently sought entry of default, which the clerk entered. When no motion for default judgment appeared before the district court, the district court ordered Tango Marine to file its motion for default judgment or explain its failure. Tango Marine then filed its motion for default judgment and the Elephant Group participated in the suit by filing a motion for extension of time and to have the default set aside. With the initial default set aside, the Elephant Group filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b). In response, Tango Marine filed an amended complaint and a response opposing the motion to dismiss. The Elephant Group responded only to this response to the motion to dismiss and never filed an answer to the amended complaint. Tango Marine ultimately asked the clerk for a second entry of default due to the Elephant Group's failure to answer the amended complaint, which the clerk granted. View "Tango Marine, S.A. v. Elephant Group, Ltd." on Justia Law
Bonvillian Marine Service, Inc. v. Pellegrin
On January 19, 2019, Bonvillian's vessel allided with a crew boat docked on the Mississippi River. On the crew boat, Pellegrin sustained personal injuries. On August 23, 2019, Pellegrin sued Bonvillian in Louisiana state court. On December 16, 2019, Bonvillian filed a verified limitation complaint. The Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 allows vessel owners to limit their vessel’s tort liability to the value of the vessel plus pending freight, 46 U.S.C. 30501–30512, requiring vessel owners to “bring a civil action in a district court of the United States . . . within 6 months after a claimant gives the owner written notice of a claim.”The district court dismissed, citing the Fifth Circuit “Eckstein” rule that “a party alleging a limitation petition was not timely filed challenges the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction over that petition.” The district court concluded that the Fifth Circuit’s Eckstein rule remained controlling (despite Bonvillian’s contention that the Supreme Court implicitly overruled Eckstein in 2015), and that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The Fifth Circuit reversed, overturning the Eckstein rule based on intervening Supreme Court decisions. The 46 U.S.C. 30511(a) time limitation is a mere claim-processing rule which has no bearing on a district court’s subject matter jurisdiction. View "Bonvillian Marine Service, Inc. v. Pellegrin" on Justia Law
Jones v. Lynn
In July 2015, R.N. went boating on Lake Coeur d’Alene with his friends, C.N. and B.L. All three boys were sixteen years old at the time. The boat was owned by C.N.’s father. C.N., B.L., and R.N. obtained about 12 beers from an unknown source and consumed them while boating. Later, the boys stopped at Shooters, a restaurant and bar near the south end of the lake. Respondent Tracy Lynn allegedly provided C.N., B.L., and R.N. with an alcoholic drink known as a “Shooter sinker” (also known as a “derailer”). The boys left the restaurant and drank the derailer on the lake. At some point during the trip, R.N. jumped or fell off the boat into the water and drowned. Appellant-plaintiffs Brandi Jones (R.N.'s mother), and Dasha Drahos (R.N.'s sister) filed a complaint against Lynn, alleging she recklessly and tortiously caused R.N.’s death by providing him with alcohol before he drowned in Lake Coeur d’Alene. Lynn moved for summary judgment, asking the district court to dismiss the case because the Plaintiffs failed to comply with the notice requirements under Idaho’s Dram Shop Act. The district court agreed and granted Lynn’s motion for summary judgment after concluding there was no uniform body of federal maritime dram shop law that would preempt Idaho’s Dram Shop Act. Thus, the Plaintiffs had to comply with the Dram Shop Act’s notice requirements. The Plaintiffs appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. Finding that the district court correctly applied with the Idaho Dram Shop Act after concluding the Act did not conflict with any uniform federal common law, and that the district court did not err in finding Appellants' claims were barred because they did not comply with the Dram Shop Act, the Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment. View "Jones v. Lynn" on Justia Law
Nederland Shipping Corp. v. United States
The Reefer arrived at the Port of Wilmington, Delaware for what its owner, Nederland, expected to be a short stay. Upon inspection, the Coast Guard suspected that the vessel had discharged dirty bilge water directly overboard and misrepresented in its record book that the ship’s oil water separator had been used to clean the bilge water prior to discharge. Nederland, wanting to get the ship back to sea as rapidly as possible, entered into an agreement with the government for the release of the Reefer in exchange for a surety bond to cover potential fines. Although Nederland delivered the bond and met other requirements, the vessel was detained in Wilmington for at least two additional weeks.Nederland sued. The Delaware district court dismissed the complaint, holding that Nederland’s claims had to be brought in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims because the breach of contract claim did not invoke admiralty jurisdiction a claim under the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) failed because of sovereign immunity. The Third Circuit reversed. The agreement is maritime in nature and invokes the district court’s admiralty jurisdiction. The primary objective of the agreement was to secure the vessel's departure clearance so that it could continue its maritime trade. APPS explicitly waives the government’s sovereign immunity. View "Nederland Shipping Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law
Roen Salvage Co. v. Sarter
Sarter drowned after a vessel capsized in Lake Superior. His employer Roen, which owned the vessel, asked the court to limit its liability to $25,000, its interest in the vessel, under 46 U.S.C. 30505(a) (Limitations Act). It also asked for exoneration from all liability, citing the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims, 4F. A federal court has exclusive jurisdiction of Limitation Act claims, 28 U.S.C. 1333(1), “saving to suitors in all cases all other remedies to which they are otherwise entitled.” After a vessel’s owner seeks Limitation Act protection, a plaintiff often files a concession that the federal court’s decision about the owner’s maximum liability will control even if a state court sets a higher figure in a Saving-to-Suitors action. Sarter's spouse made a Limitations Act concession but declined to make a concession concerning total exoneration. The district court declined to enjoin Sarter's state suit.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. No federal statute entitles a vessel owner to have a federal judge determine exoneration. Under the common law of admiralty, when there is one claimant, or when the total demanded by multiple claimants does not exceed the value set by the Limitation Act, a federal court may permit substantive claims to proceed in state court. When multiple state court claims exceed the likely value of the vessel the federal judge may retain all aspects of the litigation and decide whether the owner is entitled to exoneration. In other situations, it is enough for the federal court to set the maximum amount of recovery that a state court may allow. Sarter is the only plaintiff. The district court can set a maximum level of liability based on section 30505(a). View "Roen Salvage Co. v. Sarter" on Justia Law
Southern Recycling, LLC v. Aguilar
Southern Recycling brought a petition for exoneration or limitation of liability under the Limitation of Liability Act. The petition arose from an accident during shipbreaking operations that killed one worker and injured another. Claimants moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of admiralty jurisdiction, and the district court granted the motion.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court explained that the jurisdictional question of whether DBL 134 is a vessel is antecedent to the merits in a limitation action, rather than intertwined with the merits, and thus the district court did not err in applying the usual Rule 12(b)(1) standard and resolving factual disputes about the physical characteristics of the structure. The court also concluded that Southern Recycling failed to demonstrate that, based on its physical characteristics, DBL 134 had no been removed from navigation. Therefore, the district court did not err in concluding that DBL 134 was not longer a "vessel," but instead was a "dead ship." Finally, Southern Recycling has not shown why it needed further discovery or what material evidence further discovery could have produced that was not already available to it. View "Southern Recycling, LLC v. Aguilar" on Justia Law
DeRoy v. Carnival Corp.
After injuring her foot on a rug while onboard a Carnival ship, plaintiff filed suit against Carnival in both state and federal court, seeking damages for the injuries she allegedly suffered onboard the ship. In this case, plaintiff entered into a contract with Carnival that contained a forum-selection clause.Under the forum-selection clause's plain language, when jurisdiction for a claim could lie in federal district court, federal court is the only option for a plaintiff. The court held that plaintiff's claim for negligence at sea falls well within the walls of the federal court's admiralty jurisdiction. Even without explicitly invoking admiralty jurisdiction, the court held that plaintiff's complaint is subject to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(h)'s provision rendering her claim an admiralty or maritime claim. View "DeRoy v. Carnival Corp." on Justia Law