Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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Plaintiff filed suit against NCL, alleging that its medical staff failed to diagnose and properly manage his status and failed to evacuate him from a cruise ship he was aboard. The district court granted NCL's motion for a directed verdict and the jury found NCL negligent, awarding non-economic damages, future medical expenses, and lost services.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed and concluded that the cruise-line medical negligence claims are cognizable in admiralty jurisdiction; the district court did not err by excluding testimony from plaintiff's expert economist and granting a directed verdict on loss earning capacity where the testimony was unreliable and plaintiff failed to prove the amount of his loss-earning-capacity damages; NCL is not entitled to a new trial where the district court correctly instructed the jury and sufficient evidence supported the verdict against NCL. View "Buland v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff's boat was stolen, Geico denied coverage based on plaintiff's misrepresentation that he was in possession of the boat. On appeal, plaintiff argued that the district court erred in applying the doctrine of uberrimae fidei.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Geico and denial of plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment. The court held that plaintiff's misrepresentation voided his policy ab initio. Based on the record, the court concluded that plaintiff's initial policy, by its terms, expired on May 5, 2018, because he did not pay the required premium for the new policy period. Therefore, plaintiff's boat was uninsured between May 5, 2018, and when he first called Geico on May 25, 2018. Although plaintiff is correct that the doctrine of uberrimae fidei applies only when an insurer issues a policy, not when a policy is already in full force, his policy was not in full force on May 25th because it had expired. The court also concluded that plaintiff's statements were material to Geico's issuance of coverage on May 25, even if by renewal and backdating. Therefore, the district court properly applied the doctrine of uberrimae fidei and correctly held that plaintiff's renewal policy was void ab initio. View "Quintero v. Geico Marine Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a wrongful death action alleging that PAE failed to properly service and maintain the F-16 that her husband was flying when it crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. The district court granted summary judgment for PAE.The Eleventh Circuit agreed with the district court that the Death on the High Seas Act does not require a maritime nexus and that the Act applies whenever a death occurs on the high seas. The court held that the Act governs plaintiff's action; the Act provides plaintiff's exclusive remedy; and the Act preempts plaintiff's breach-of-warranty and breach-of-contract claims. The court also held that PAE is entitled to protection pursuant to the government-contractor defense. In this case, plaintiff failed to produce evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact that PAE violated government procedures. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of PAE. View "LaCourse v. Defense Support Services LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendants, three foreign nationals in a foreign vessel in the territorial waters of Jamaica, were arrested by the United States Coast Guard with the consent of the foreign country and prosecuted in the United States for drug-trafficking crimes under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA). Defendants pleaded guilty and preserved their right to appeal the denial of their motion to suppress.The Eleventh Circuit vacated defendant's convictions, holding that the MDLEA is unconstitutional and exceeded Congress's authority under the Foreign Commerce Clause. The court also held that, as applied to defendants, the MDLEA was not a valid exercise of Congress's authority under the Necessary and Proper Clause to effectuate the subsequently enacted 1989 Convention Against Illicit Traffic Treaty and the 1997 Jamaica Bilateral Agreement between the United States and Jamaica. View "United States v. Davila-Mendoza" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff tripped over a bucket in a dining area of a cruise ship and sustained serious injuries, she filed suit against the cruise company, Costa Crociere, for negligently placing the bucket behind a corner in a highly-trafficked area. The jury returned a verdict in her favor for over $1 million. Both parties subsequently appealed. The Eleventh Circuit found Costa's arguments unpersuasive and affirmed the verdict in plaintiff's favor.However, the court held that the appropriate measure of medical damages in a maritime tort case is that reasonable value determined by the jury upon consideration of any relevant evidence, including the amount billed, the amount paid, and any expert testimony and other relevant evidence the parties may offer. In this case, the district court improperly reduced plaintiff's damages by applying a bright-line rule that would categorically limit medical damages to the amount actually paid by an insurer. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's reduction of the medical damages award and remanded for entry of judgment in the amount the jury found to be reasonable. View "Higgs v. Costa Crociere S.P.A. Co." on Justia Law

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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