Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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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

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Plaintiff filed a maritime negligence action against Carnival on her daughter's behalf after her daughter, three years old at the time, either fell over or through a guard rail on one of Carnival's cruise ships. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that Carnival negligently created and maintained the guard rail, and failed to warn of the danger posed by the guard rail. The district court granted summary judgment to Carnival. The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court erred when it concluded that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to Carnival's notice of the alleged risk-creating condition because it failed to view the evidence in a light most favorable to plaintiff and to draw reasonable inferences in her favor. In this case, a witness testified that Carnival warned passengers not to climb up rails, try to sit on them, or try to get selfies or lean over them because accidents can happen and passengers have fallen off. The court also held that the district court erred when it resolved the failure-to-warn claim on a basis that Carnival did not raise, without providing plaintiff notice or an opportunity to respond. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Amy v. Carnival Corp." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff was injured while working as a longshoreman, he filed suit against Seaboard, seeking to hold them liable under the Longshore Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). Plaintiff fell from a walkway on the upper deck of the ship where he was working and sustained serious injuries. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Seaboard on plaintiff's negligence claim, holding that the exposed walkway was an open and obvious hazard that plaintiff could have avoided with the exercise of reasonable care. Therefore, the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's claim. View "Troutman v. Seaboard Atlantic Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions and sentences under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA). Defendants were convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and possession with intent to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. The court rejected defendants' constitutional challenges to the MDLEA where the court has previously held that the MDLEA is a valid exercise of Congress's power under the Felonies Clause as applied to drug trafficking crimes without a "nexus" to the United States; the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause does not prohibit the trial and conviction of aliens captured on the high seas while drug trafficking because the MDLEA provides clear notice that all nations prohibit and condemn drug trafficking aboard stateless vessels on the high seas; and because the MDLEA's jurisdictional requirement goes to the subject matter jurisdiction of the courts and is not an essential element of the MDLEA substantive offense, it does not have to be submitted to the jury for proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Furthermore, the court held that the district court properly exercised jurisdiction over defendants and their offenses under the MDLEA. The court rejected Defendant Guagua-Alarcon's challenges to his presentment for a probable cause hearing; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant Palacios-Solis's motion in limine; sufficient evidence supported defendants' convictions; and because Palacios-Solis failed to show a Brady violation, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying his motion for a mistrial. Finally, the court also rejected defendants' claims of sentencing errors. View "United States v. Cabezas-Montano" on Justia Law

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Geico Marine filed suit seeking a declaration that a navigational limit in the policy with defendant that required the vessel to be north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, during hurricane season barred coverage. The district court ruled against Geico Marine and declared that the policy covered the loss. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the navigational limit barred coverage. In this case, the policy was not ambiguous about whether it contained a navigational limit when the loss occurred, and the plain language of the policy contained a navigational limit. Because the navigational limit was dispositive where the vessel suffered damage while outside the covered navigational area, the court need not address the breach of a duty of uberrimae fidei. View "Geico Marine Insurance Co. v. Shackleford" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the denial of her petition to "vacate and/or alternatively to deny recognition and enforcement" of the foreign arbitral award in favor of her employer, Carnival, on her claims under the Jones Act and U.S. maritime law for injuries related to her carpal tunnel. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the petition, holding that plaintiff failed to establish that the foreign arbitral award offended the United States' most basic notions of morality and justice. Weighing the policies at issue and considering the specific unique factual circumstances of this case, the court held that plaintiff's Article V(2)(b) of the New York Convention defense failed. Therefore, the court held that the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's request that it refuse to enforce the arbitral award and dismissing her claims. View "Cvoro v. Carnival Corp." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff slipped and fell as he stepped down from a landing located on the outer deck of a cruise ship operated by NCL, he filed suit alleging that NCL negligently failed to warn passengers of the step down, and negligent failed to maintain and inspect the lighting in the area. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in striking a portion of the expert's First Supplemental Report and the entirety of the Second Supplemental Report. However, the court held that plaintiff raised a genuine issue of material fact regarding NCL's prior notice of the dangerous condition posed by the step down. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded the district court's ruling regarding the failure to warn claim. Finally, the court affirmed as to the negligent maintenance claim and held that the district court did not err in concluding that plaintiff failed to create a triable issue of fact on whether NCL had notice of the allegedly dangerous condition posed by the unilluminated lightbulb. View "Guevara v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd." on Justia Law

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Orion filed a limitation action under the Shipowner's Limitation of Liability Act. Claimants moved to dismiss the action, arguing that Orion had received adequate notice of the claims against it more than six months before it filed, that the action was therefore time-barred, and thus the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of claimants' motion to dismiss. The court held that the Act's section 30511(a)'s six-month filing deadline does not erect a jurisdictional barrier to suit. Rather, section 30211(a)'s six-month filing deadline is a non-jurisdictional claim process rule. The court also held that, in order to trigger the six-month filing period, a claimant (not someone else) must provide the shipowner or its agent (not someone else) with written (not oral) notice that reveals a reasonable possibility that his claim will exceed the value of the vessel(s) at issue. Furthermore, a shipowner does not incur a duty to investigate known or potential claims immediately upon receipt of a claimant's notice, and the duty to investigate arises only if the notice reveals the required "reasonable possibility." Finally, the court held that Orion did not receive the statutorily required written notice—revealing a reasonable possibility of claims that would exceed the value of its barges—more than six months before it filed its limitation action. Therefore, Orion's suit was timely filed. View "Orion Marine Construction, Inc. v. Dawson" on Justia Law

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In an ancillary third-party forfeiture proceeding where Maritime Life asserted that it was given a security interest in the forfeited property, the Eleventh Circuit held that the district court committed harmless error in requiring Maritime Life to prove the authenticity of the collateral assignment that allegedly granted it a security interest in the forfeited property by a preponderance of the evidence. In this case, ample evidence supported the district court's finding on the ultimate question of authenticity and that finding controlled whether Maritime Life had an interest in the property. The court also held that, although the district court erred in permitting the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to intervene in the forfeiture proceeding even though it had no legal interest in the property, the intervention did not affect Maritime Life's substantial rights and did not require reversal. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Maritime Life Caribbean Limited" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against NCL, the owner and operator of a cruise ship, alleging negligence claims after he fell down an emergency-exit hatch in an area designated for crew members only. The Eleventh Circuit held that plaintiff as a Canadian citizen and NCL as a Bermuda company, with its principal place of business in Florida, did not support the exercise of jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332(a)(2). However, the district court validly exercised admiralty jurisdiction over the case under section 1333(1). On the merits, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim that the cruise line was negligent in over-serving him alcohol, holding that the claim was time-barred and the claim did not relate back. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's claim that the cruise line was negligent for letting him fall down the hatch where NCL's uncontroverted record showed that no injuries similar to plaintiff's had been reported on any of NCL's ships in the last five years, and plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence of negligence on the part of NCL's crew. View "Caron v. NCL (Bahamas), Ltd." on Justia Law