Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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Plaintiff-Appellant Roger Hill appealed a district court's dismissal of his complaint for failure to state a claim (Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)) -- specifically for lack of prudential standing. Hill was a fly fisherman who preferred to fish at a favorite spot in the Arkansas River. Defendants-Appellees Mark Everett Warsewa and Linda Joseph (Landowners) contended they owned the Arkansas riverbed up to its centerline at the spot at which Hill preferred to fish. Hill contended this segment of the river was navigable for title at the time Colorado was admitted to the United States and that title to the riverbed consequently vested in the state at admission under Article IV of the Constitution and the Equal Footing Doctrine. According to Hill, the state holds this title in trust for the public, subject to an easement for public uses such as fishing. Defendant-Appellee State of Colorado agreed with the Landowner-Appellees that this segment of the river was non-navigable for title at statehood and was privately owned. The district court found that Hill lacked prudential standing because he asserted a generalized grievance and rested his claims on the rights of the state. The Tenth Circuit reversed. Hill alleged he had a specific, legally protected right to fish resulting from alleged facts and law. "The other parties and amici may ultimately be correct that Colorado law does not actually afford Mr. Hill the right to fish that he asserts, even if he can prove navigability as a factual matter. But in this regard 'far-fetchedness is a question to be determined on the merits.'" The Court assumed Hill’s claim had “legal validity” and concluded that he asserted his own rights, not those of Colorado, for prudential standing purposes. View "Hill v. Warsewa" on Justia Law

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Daewoo filed suit against AMT, seeking an order compelling AMT to arbitrate an attachment of pig iron, invoking both maritime attachment and the Louisiana non-resident attachment statute, La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 3542. After the district court's grant of Daewoo's attachment, TKM attached the same pig iron in Louisiana state court and intervened in the federal suit. The district court agreed with TKM and vacated Daewoo's attachment. The Fifth Circuit vacated, holding that Section 3502 allowed Daewoo to seek a Section 3542 attachment before commencing its confirmation proceeding, Daewoo followed Section 3502's requirements, and thus Daewoo's attachment was valid. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Stemcor USA Inc. v. Cia Siderurgica do Para Cosipar" on Justia Law

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The Herrs bought property on Crooked Lake in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, hoping to use the lake for recreational boating and fishing. Most of Crooked Lake lies in the federally-owned Sylvania Wilderness but some remains under private ownership. Congress gave the Forest Service authority to regulate any use of Crooked Lake and nearby lakes “subject to valid existing rights.” The Forest Service promulgated regulations, prohibiting gas-powered motorboats and limiting electrically powered motorboats to no-wake speeds throughout the wilderness area. After noting “nearly a quarter century of litigation over the recreational uses of Crooked Lake,” the Sixth Circuit concluded that both regulations exceed the Forest Service’s power as applied to private property owners on the lake. Under Michigan law, lakeside property owners may use all of a lake, making the Herrs’ right to use all of the lake in reasonable ways the kind of “valid existing rights” that the Forest Service has no warrant to override. Michigan law permits motorboat use outside the Sylvania Wilderness. The Forest Service long allowed motorboat use on all of the lake after it obtained this regulatory authority and it still does with respect to one property owner. View "Herr v. United States Forest Service" on Justia Law

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In an in rem admiralty proceeding involving the wreckage of Spanish galleons, Fleet-Queens recovered approximately four hundred gold coins, among other treasures, from an area that Gold Hound had allegedly been salvaging while acting as a subcontractor for Fleet-Queens. Gold Hound filed suit claiming that this discovery was made using its proprietary maps and software, seeking to intervene in the in rem action to assert a maritime lien over some of these artifacts and to assert state law claims. The district court denied the motion to intervene and concluded that Gold Hound was not entitled to a maritime lien. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court properly determined that it had and continues to have subject-matter jurisdiction over the res; Gold Hound should be granted leave to intervene in this proceeding to assert its in rem claims; and, on remand, the court deferred to the district court's discretion to determine whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Gold Hound's state law claims. The court vacated the district court's denial of Gold Hound's motion to intervene and its denial of Gold Hound's claim to a maritime lien and remanded, because the court could not decide on the record whether Gold Hound may succeed because basic facts remain in dispute. View "Salvors, Inc. v. Unidentified Wrecked & Abandoned Vessel" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a marine salvor, filed this action in rem against the Blacksheep, seeking a salvage award for services he provided to the yacht. The district court entered judgment against plaintiff, finding that he failed to show that his services were necessary to the rescue of the Blacksheep. The court concluded, however, that a claim for a salvage award does not require such a showing. In this case, the district court's findings and some facts from the record could support the conclusion that plaintiff's action contributed to saving the Blacksheep where he deployed his high-capacity dewatering pump; dove below the ship where he successfully pushed the propeller shaft twelve inches closer to its intended position; and applied packing material to prevent further flooding. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Girard v. M/V "Blacksheep"" on Justia Law

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The states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island each tax the transfer of real estate. In separate actions, the Town of Johnston, Rhode Island and the Commissioners of Bristol County, Massachusetts (the municipalities) brought actions against Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (collectively, the entities), seeking declaratory judgments that the entities owed transfer taxes as well as money damages and equitable relief to recover the unpaid taxes. Federal district courts granted the entities’ motions to dismiss based on statutory exemptions from taxation. The municipalities appealed, arguing that a real property exception in the entities’ tax exemptions applies to the transfer taxes and that the exemptions themselves are unconstitutional. The First Circuit affirmed the dismissal of all claims, holding (1) the transfer taxes are not included in the real property exception to the entities’ tax exemptions; and (2) the tax exemptions are a constitutional exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause and do not violate the Tenth Amendment. View "Town of Johnston v. Fed. Housing Fin. Agency" on Justia Law

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The Chincoteague Inn constructed a floating platform secured alongside its building to be used as part of the Inn’s restaurant. The platform was situated partially over state-owned submerged lands. In an enforcement action, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission directed removal of a portion of the platform. The circuit court set aside the Commission’s decision and dismissed with prejudice the Commission’s enforcement action, finding that the Commission lacked jurisdiction to require removal of the floating platform. A panel of the court of appeals reversed, holding that under the facts of this case, federal maritime law did not preempt the Commission’s authority to order the removal of the floating platform over state-owned submerged lands. The court of appeals then granted the Inn’s petition for a rehearing en banc, vacated the panel opinion, and affirmed the circuit court’s determination that the Commission lacked jurisdiction over the floating platform. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in interpreting the scope of the Commission’s authority under Va. Code Ann. 28.2-1203(A); and (2) because the court of appeals’ en banc opinion did not address the issue of federal preemption, that issue remained outstanding. Remanded. View "Va. Marine Res. Comm’n v. Chincoteague Inn" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a maritime accident where a vessel owned by Bertucci hit the Leo Kerner bridge in Louisiana. Claimants, residents of an affected community, argued that they suffered damages as a result of the accident. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the claims, holding that the case was barred by Supreme Court and circuit precedent. The law of this circuit did not allow recovery of purely economic claims absent physical injury to a proprietary interest in a maritime negligence suit. Claimants failed to point to any facts that might plausibly state a claim for physical damages of any kind. View "In Re: Bertucci Contracting" on Justia Law

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These consolidated appeals concerned segments of two Georgia waterways, the Flint River and Spring Creek. Aqua Log, a company that finds, removes, and sells submerged logs, brought three in rem actions seeking a salvage award for the logs submerged at the bottom of the waterways or, in the alternative, an award of title to the logs based on the American Law of Finds. Because the segments of the Flint River and Spring Creek at issue in these cases were capable of supporting commercial activity, they were navigable waters for admiralty-jurisdiction purposes. The court therefore held that the district court erred in concluding that the waterways were not navigable and dismissing the cases for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Aqua Log Inc. v. Lost and Abandoned Pre-Cut Logs and Rafts of Logs" on Justia Law

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The city filed a complaint in admiralty against defendant, a vessel, claiming that defendant committed the maritime tort of trespass because it remained at the city marina after the city explicitly revoked its consent, and seeking to foreclose its maritime lien for necessaries (unpaid dockage provided to defendant by the city). Claimant, owner of the vessel, appealed from the district court's entry of an order of summary judgment and an order of final judgment for the city in an in rem proceeding against defendant. The court held that the district court did not err in concluding that it had federal admiralty jurisdiction over defendant where defendant was a "vessel" for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction; the district court's factual findings regarding the amount claimant owed under the city's maritime lien for necessaries were not clearly erroneous; the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to the city on claimant's affirmative defense of retaliation; the district court correctly concluded that the city was not estopped from bringing its action in admiralty against defendant; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to apply collateral estoppel because the issues at stake were significantly different from those in dispute in the state court proceeding. Accordingly, the district court's orders were affirmed.View "City of Riviera Beach v. Lozman" on Justia Law