Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Baker v. DOWCP
Petitioner worked as a marine carpenter and was injured while building a housing module designed for use on a tension leg offshore oil platform (TLP) named Big Foot. On appeal, petitioner challenges the Benefits Review Board's decision affirming the denial of benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. 901-950, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), 43 U.S.C. 1331-1356. Big Foot, like other TLPs, is a type of offshore oil platform used for deep water drilling; the parties concede that Big Foot was not built to regularly transport goods or people. The court agreed with the ALJ that petitioner was not covered by the LHWCA because he was not engaged in maritime employment as a shipbuilder, based on his determination that Big Foot is not a “vessel” under the LHWCA. The court also concluded that, based on the specific facts of petitioner's employment, his injury does not satisfy the substantial nexus test and is not covered under the LHWCA as extended by the OCSLA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Baker v. DOWCP" on Justia Law
Tundidor v. Miami-Dade County
Plaintiff filed suit against the County after he suffered injuries while aboard a vessel traveling in the Coral Park Canal, a drainage canal in the County. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. At issue is whether a canal is navigable for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. 1333, if an artificial obstruction prevents vessels from using the canal to conduct interstate commerce. Because the Coral Park Canal cannot support interstate commerce, the court concluded that it cannot satisfy the location requirement of admiralty jurisdiction. The court concluded that extending jurisdiction to waters incapable of commercial activity serves no purpose of admiralty jurisdiction. Therefore, the court agreed with the district court that plaintiff's injuries did not occur on navigable waters for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction because an artificial obstruction prevents vessels from traveling from the Coral Park Canal to places outside of Florida. View "Tundidor v. Miami-Dade County" on Justia Law
In re: Aramark Sports
A recreational boating accident killed four adults. The boat had been rented from Aramark Sports and Entertainment Services, LLC. Because the accident occurred on navigable waters, the case fell within federal admiralty jurisdiction. Anticipating that it would be sued for damages, Aramark filed in the United States District Court for the District of Utah a petition under the Limitation of Liability Act, which permitted a boat owner to obtain a ruling exonerating it or limiting its liability based on the capacity or value of the boat and freight. The district court denied the petition, leaving for further proceedings the issues of gross negligence, comparative fault, and the amount of damages. Aramark appealed the denial. After review, the Tenth Circuit held the district court erred in its application of admiralty principles of duty and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re: Aramark Sports" on Justia Law
McIndoe v. Huntington Ingalls Inc.
After James McIndoe died from complications related to mesothelioma, McIndoe's legal heirs filed suit against defendants, arguing that McIndoe’s exposure to asbestos-containing materials aboard their ships contributed to his death. The district court granted defendants' motions for summary judgment. The court agreed with the district court that McIndoe’s heirs cannot sustain an action for strict products liability premised upon the notion that the warships in question are themselves “products” under maritime law. The court also concluded that, although plaintiffs have established that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether McIndoe was exposed to asbestos-containing materials originally installed upon such ships, plaintiffs have established no genuine issue of fact regarding whether any such exposure was a substantial factor in McIndoe’s injuries. Therefore, plaintiffs cannot prevail on their general negligence claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "McIndoe v. Huntington Ingalls Inc." on Justia Law
Bartel v. Alcoa Steamship Co.
Plaintiffs filed these consolidated cases, alleging exposure to asbestos aboard vessels operated or owned by the various defendants. At issue was whether the cases, originally filed in state court, properly belong in federal court. Defendants argue that removal was warranted under the Federal Officer Removal Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1). In adopting the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation, the district court found that defendants failed to establish an adequate causal link because plaintiffs’ claims were “analogous” to “failure to warn cases” where the government owns a work space infected with asbestos and the civilian contractor operating the facility fails to warn of the danger or otherwise mitigate the risk. The court found that the evidence suggests that the Federal Officer Defendants operated the vessels in a largely independent fashion and, at a minimum, were free to adopt the safety measures plaintiffs now allege would have prevented their injuries. The court concluded that the district court properly found that remand was proper based upon this ground. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Bartel v. Alcoa Steamship Co." on Justia Law
Barto v. Shore Construction
After plaintiff, an employee of Shore, was hurt while working on a derrick barge operated by McDermott, plaintiff filed suit against both Shore and McDermott under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 30104. Plaintiff also filed suit against Shore for cure under maritime law. The district court entered judgment against McDermott and Shore. Both defendants appealed. McDermott asks the court to render judgment, reducing the future lost wages award from $300,000 to $209,533. Plaintiff’s own expert economist determined that his net future lost wages would be $209,533 if he worked as an unarmed security guard and retired at age 55.8. Therefore, the court reversed as to this issue and found it appropriate to render judgment in the amount of $209,533 for future lost wages. The court affirmed in all other respects, including issues of Jones Act liability, comparative negligence, future general damages, and cure. View "Barto v. Shore Construction" on Justia Law
Am. River Transp. v. United States, Corp of Eng’rs
Barges separated from an Artco towboat, damaging a lock and dam. Artco sought limitation of its liability to the government or exoneration under FRCP F. The court enjoined prosecution of separate suits against Artco or the vessel and directed potential claimants to file claims by June 15, 2011. The government argued that its claim, alleging violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act (RHA), 33 U.S.C. 408, was not subject to the Limitation of Shipowners’ Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. 30501, and need not be litigated in the Rule F proceeding. The government never filed a timely claim in the limitation proceeding. On remand, the district court denied Artco’s motion for a decree of exoneration, reiterating that the government’s claims were not subject to the Limitation Act and that the government could pursue a remedy for its RHA claim. The court concluded that its prior injunction was overbroad and denied Artco’s motion to hold the government in contempt, to impose sanctions, and to direct dismissal of the government’s separate suit. As there were no claims filed in the limitation action, the court denied the government leave to file a late claim and directed dismissal of the limitation action. The Eighth Circuit reversed dismissal of Artco’s limitation action, affirmed denial of Artco’s motion to hold the government in contempt and for sanctions, vacated the order as to the remaining motions, and remanded. View "Am. River Transp. v. United States, Corp of Eng'rs" on Justia Law
Johnson v. PPI Tech. Serv., L.P.
After plaintiff was shot and seriously injured by a Nigerian gunman who invaded the drilling rig plaintiff was working aboard, he filed suit alleging that the negligence of other rig hands caused his injury and that GSF, a corporate parent and indirect subsidiary of the drilling company, was vicariously liable for such negligence under the general maritime law. The district court granted summary judgment for GSF. The court affirmed the judgment, concluding that GSF may not be held vicariously liable for the rig hands’ alleged negligence because no reasonable jury could find an employment relationship between GSF and the rig hands. The court found that the record contains no evidence of most of the factors that would support a finding of an employment relationship where there is no evidence that GSF had the right to direct the rig hands or to control the details of their work; there is no evidence that GSF hired or had the right to fire the rig hands; and there is no evidence that GSF furnished the rig or the equipment used on the rig. View "Johnson v. PPI Tech. Serv., L.P." on Justia Law
Wilcox v. Max Welders, L.L.C.
Plaintiff, an employer of Max Welders, was working as the borrowed employee of Wild Well, a subsidiary of Superior, when he sustained injuries while welding on an offshore platform. Plaintiff filed suit against all defendants under, inter alia, the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 30104. Superior and Wild Well filed a cross-claim for indemnity from Max Welders pursuant to a Master Service Agreement (MSA) or, in the alternative, Vessel Boarding, Utilization and Hold Harmless Agreement (VBA) between Superior and Max Welders. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants on the Jones Act claims because it found that plaintiff is not a Jones Act seaman. The court also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Max Welders on indemnity because 1) the MSA was void under Louisiana law and 2) the VBA did not apply to plaintiff’s work. View "Wilcox v. Max Welders, L.L.C." on Justia Law
Alexander v. Express Energy
Plaintiff was injured while employed as a lead hand/operator in Express's plug and abandonment department, which specializes in decommissioned oil wells on various platforms off the coast of Louisiana. Plaintiff filed suit under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 30104 et seq., against Express and others. The district court entered judgment against plaintiff, concluding that plaintiff is not a seaman and the district court dismissed plaintiff's claims against Express with prejudice. The court concluded that plaintiff failed to carry his burden of showing that he is a seaman where the undisputed evidence demonstrated that approximately 65% of plaintiff's job involved a fix platform only, without the help of an adjacent vessel. Even on the other jobs involving a vessel adjacent to plaintiff's platform, his work occurred mostly on the platform. Plaintiff failed to prove that he actually worked on a vessel at least 30% of the time. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Alexander v. Express Energy" on Justia Law