Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Maziar v. Dep’t of Corr.
Scott Walter Maziar sustained injuries while on board a ferry operated by the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC). Maziar used the ferry to get to and from work. Since Maziar was injured at sea, he brought a general maritime negligence claim against the DOC. He initially requested a jury trial, but he moved to strike his demand because he thought that no jury trial right existed for general maritime negligence cases. The DOC objected, but the trial court agreed with Maziar, struck his jury request, and awarded him damages after a bench trial. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court on the jury trial issue but on different grounds, holding that although a jury trial right generally applied to general maritime negligence actions in state court. The State did not have a constitutional or statutory jury trial right in tort actions. The issue this case presented on appeal was whether the State had a jury trial right in tort actions. The Court held that it does: several statutes read together demonstrate that the legislature meant to treat the State as if it were a private party with regard to matters of civil procedure and confer on any party (including the State) the right to have a jury determine most matters of fact. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded for a jury trial. View "Maziar v. Dep't of Corr." on Justia Law
Asignacion v. Rickmers Genoa Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH & Cie KG
Rickmers Genoa Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH & Cie KG (Rickmers) sought to enforce a Philippine arbitral award given to Lito Martinez Asignacion for maritime injuries. Asignacion sued Rickmers in Louisiana state court to recover for his injuries. Rickmers filed an exception seeking to enforce the arbitration clause of Asignacion’s contract. The state court granted the exception, stayed litigation, and ordered arbitration in the Philippines. The district court refused to enforce the award pursuant to the public-policy defense found in the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, and the prospective-waiver doctrine. Rickmers appeals. Finding that the district court erred in reaching its conclusion, the Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded for the district court to enforce the award. View "Asignacion v. Rickmers Genoa Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH & Cie KG" on Justia Law
Hicks v. Vane Line Bunkering, Inc.
Hicks was a deckhand on a tugboat when, while handling heavy gear, he injured his shoulder. A company doctor determined that Hicks was not fit for duty. His employer acknowledged its obligation to pay maintenance and cure and medical expenses until full recovery, maximum improvement, or until his condition was declared permanent, 46 U.S.C. 30104 (Jones Act). Hicks had surgery and physical therapy. His employer hired an investigator to videotape Hicks surreptitiously. The video showed Hicks planting a small tree and playing with his grandson. When Hicks’s doctor requested funding for an MRI scan, he was shown this footage and told that Hicks’s job required only light lifting. The doctor determined that Hicks was fit for duty. The employer terminated payments. Hicks consulted a second doctor, who diagnosed a recurrent rotator cuff tear and recommended another surgery plus rehabilitation. Under financial pressure, Hicks returned to work and missed physical therapy. His house went into foreclosure, and he was unable to pay for health insurance. Hicks sued, claiming negligence under the Jones Act and the maritime doctrines of unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure. The jury awarded $190,000 for past and future maintenance and cure and $132,000 for pain and suffering. Based on a finding that the failure to pay was unreasonable and willful, Hicks was awarded $123,000 in punitive damages and $112,083.77 in attorney’s fees. The Second Circuit affirmed. View "Hicks v. Vane Line Bunkering, Inc." on Justia Law
Wu Tien Li-Shou v. United States
Plaintiff, a citizen of Taiwan, filed suit against the United States, seeking damages for the accidental killing of her husband and the intentional sinking of her husband's fishing vessel during a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) counter-piracy mission. Plaintiff's husband was one of three Chinese hostages captured by pirates. Because allowing this action to proceed would thrust courts into the middle of a sensitive multinational counter-piracy operation and force courts to second-guess the conduct of military engagement, the court agreed that the separation of powers prevents the judicial branch from hearing the case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action under the political question and discretionary function doctrines. View "Wu Tien Li-Shou v. United States" on Justia Law
Meche v. Key Energy Servs., LLC
Plaintiff, the captain of a crew boat, filed suit against his employer and his supervisor under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 50101, and general maritime law, seeking maintenance and cure and damages. All parties cross-appealed the district court's judgment. The court concluded that the district court's finding that plaintiff merely strained his back while lifting a hatch cover is not clearly erroneous; the district court's findings regarding the weather and condition of the seas at the time and location of the incident are not clearly erroneous; the district court properly ruled against plaintiff on all of his unseaworthiness claims; the district court's finding that defendants were not negligent is fully supported by the record; the court vacated the maintenance and cure award against the supervisor where the maintenance and cure duty extends only to the seaman's employer; and the McCorpen v. Central Gulf Steamship Corp. rule precludes plaintiff from obtaining maintenance and cure from his employer in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment to the extent the district court rejected plaintiff's Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness claims; vacated the awards against the employer and supervisor in their entirety; and rendered judgment in favor of the employer and supervisor. View "Meche v. Key Energy Servs., LLC" on Justia Law
RLB Contracting, Inc. v. Butler
RLB filed suit seeking to limit its liability to the value of the dredge vessel, "Jonathan King Boyd," after a fatal allision between a fishing boat and the Vessel's dredge pipe. Claimants had previously filed suit against RLB in state court for personal injuries and property damage, and for the wrongful death of one occupant. Claimants argue that RLB missed the Limitation of Liability Act's, 46 U.S.C. 30501 et seq., six-month jurisdictional deadline for invoking the protections of the Act. The court concluded that claimants established that the pre-suit writing from their counsel to RLB's counsel conveyed the reasonable possibility that RLB faced a claim exceeding the value of the Vessel. Therefore, RLB had written notice under the Act earlier than six months before it filed its limitation action. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of RLB's complaint as time-bared. View "RLB Contracting, Inc. v. Butler" on Justia Law
Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.
Plaintiff filed suit against Royal Caribbean for maritime negligence after her elderly father fell and hit his head while on one of Royal Caribbean's cruise vessels. Plaintiff's father died a week after the injury. Plaintiff alleged that Royal Caribbean is vicariously liable for the negligence of two of its employees, the onboard nurse and doctor, under an actual agency or apparent agency theory. The court concluded that the allegations in plaintiff's complaint plausibly support holding Royal Caribbean vicariously liable for the medical negligence of its onboard nurse and doctor. The court declined to adopt the Barbetta rule, which immunizes a shipowner from respondent superior liability whenever a ship's employees render negligent medical care to its passengers. The court found that the complaint in this cause plausibly establishes a claim against Royal Caribbean under the doctrine of actual agency, as well as the principles of apparent agency. Because plaintiff adequately pled all the elements of both actual and apparent agency, the court held that plaintiff may press her claims under either or both theories. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law
Ramirez v. Carolina Dream, Inc.
Appellant, a seaman, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a blood condition that preventing him from continuing to work. Appellant brought a personal injury action against his employer, alleging negligence under the Jones Act and maritime claims of unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure. The district court granted summary judgment for the employer. On appeal, Appellant challenged only the dismissal of his cause of action for maintenance and cure, arguing that he was entitled to that remedy until he “reaches maximum medical recovery.” The First Circuit vacated the district court’s ruling, holding that Appellant adduced sufficient evidence to support a finding that his aplastic anemia arose or became aggravated during his service on the ship and, hence, triggered the duty of maintenance and cure. Remanded. View "Ramirez v. Carolina Dream, Inc." on Justia Law
Schlumberger Tech. Corp. v. Arthey
A corporation invited guests to a business retreat at the corporation’s expense at a lodge near the Gulf of Mexico. The lodge provided the guests with bay fishing from small boats. The corporation provided alcoholic beverages on the boats at the guests’ request. After one guest spent some time on the boat, returned to the lodge, and left to drive home, the guest struck a motorcycle ridden by the plaintiffs, who were severely injured. The plaintiffs sued the corporation, alleging that it negligently allowed the guest to drink excessively. Because Texas law does not recognize such social host liability, the plaintiffs asserted that federal maritime law applied in this case because, before the accident, the guest became intoxicated while on the fishing boat. The court of appeals concluded that maritime law applied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the tests set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Jerome B. Grubart, Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., the action did not fall within admiralty jurisdiction. View "Schlumberger Tech. Corp. v. Arthey" on Justia Law
Tandon v. Ulbrick
Petitioners filed a petition for limitation on liability after visitors of their powerboat were involved in a fistfight on a floating dock operated by Claimant. At issue was whether federal admiralty jurisdiction extended to tort claims arising from a physical altercation among recreational visitors on and around a permanent dock surrounded by navigable water. The court held that federal admiralty jurisdiction did not reach the claims at issue because this type of incident did not have a potentially disruptive effect on maritime commerce. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Tandon v. Ulbrick" on Justia Law