Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Judith Willis v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD.
Plaintiff brought a three-count maritime negligence action against Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (“Royal Caribbean”) after she fell aboard one of its cruise ships. She alleged that during the ship’s muster drill, a Royal Caribbean employee rushed her down a set of stairs—causing her to fall and severely injure her neck. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Royal Caribbean. First, on Count I (general negligence) and Count II (negligent failure to warn), the district court found that Plaintiff failed to show that Royal Caribbean had notice of the dangerous conditions that allegedly caused her fall. Second, on Count III (general negligence against Royal Caribbean for its employee’s conduct under a theory of vicarious liability), the district court determined that Plaintiff put forth insufficient evidence of medical causation. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that looking to Florida negligence law: non-readily observable injuries require expert medical evidence to prove causation. The court concluded that Plaintiff failed to adduce sufficient medical evidence to satisfy proximate cause. And because proximate cause must be satisfied for each of Plaintiff’s three negligence-based claims to prevail, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Royal Caribbean. View "Judith Willis v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD." on Justia Law
Skanska USA Civil Southeast, Inc. and Skanska USA v. Bagelheads, Inc., et al.
Barges around Pensacola Bay were slammed around during Hurricane Sally, leading to significant damage—including to the Pensacola Bay Bridge, which was closed for months. Skanska, the construction company that owned the barges (and was working on replacing the Bay Bridge) faced hundreds of potential lawsuits. Some were directly related to property damage, but most were economic loss claims from nearby businesses that lost customers during the months-long closure of the bridge. Skanska filed what are called petitions for limitation of liability, one for each of its 28 barges. These petitions invoked the Limitation Act. the district court decided that Skanska could not limit its liability because its own corporate officials were responsible for the negligent acts that led to the barges getting loose in the storm. It dismissed the Limitation Act petitions—freeing the claimants to pursue litigation in state court. Skanska says the district court acted too fast and also disputed several of the district court’s other decisions. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Limitation Act allows a federal court to take over all negligence claims to preserve the vessel owner’s right to limit its liability and then proportionally distribute the available assets to the successful claimants. But only to the extent necessary to protect the right to limitation; it does not create an independent right to have the full merits of each individual claim decided in federal court when no limitation is available. Further, the court concluded that it saw no reversible error in the district court’s evidentiary rulings, its findings of fact, or its spoliation sanctions. View "Skanska USA Civil Southeast, Inc. and Skanska USA v. Bagelheads, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Mary Brady v. Carnival Corporation
Plaintiff slipped on a puddle of water and broke her hip shortly after boarding a Carnival cruise ship. She then sued the cruise line for negligence. The district court granted summary judgment for Carnival, holding that it lacked a duty to protect Plaintiff because its crewmembers had neither actual nor constructive notice of the particular puddle that caused her fall. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded to the district court, holding that the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Defendant on the basis that Defendant lacked notice was improper. The court found that the district court failed to faithfully follow Carroll. (Carroll v. Carnival Corp., 955 F.3d 1260, 1264 (11th Cir. 2020.) The relevant question, in this case, was whether Carnival “had actual or constructive knowledge that the pool deck where [Plaintiff] fell could be slippery (and therefore dangerous) when wet.” The fact that warning signs were “posted on the pool deck” in the general area of Plaintiff’s fall, when “viewed in the light most favorable to [Plaintiff], is enough to withstand summary judgment as to notice.” View "Mary Brady v. Carnival Corporation" on Justia Law
Reinier Fuentes v. Classica Cruise Operator Ltd, Inc.
Plaintiff and his wife were passengers on a cruise aboard a ship operated by Defendant. A verbal altercation between Plaintiff and another passenger ensued and while the security officer turned to speak to Plaintiff, the other passenger punched Plaintiff in the face. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant was negligent because it failed to (a) reasonably and properly train security personnel; (b) have adequate security measures, including adequate security presence and surveillance cameras; (c) warn him of the danger of being physically assaulted while onboard the vessel; (d) promulgate and enforce policies and procedures designed to prevent passengers from physically assaulting other passengers; and (e) exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, ruling that there was no evidence suggesting that Defendant had actual or constructive notice of the risk of harm. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to Defendant and denied Plaintiff’s motion for sanctions. The court held that Plaintiff has not presented sufficient evidence to create an issue of fact as to whether Defendant had actual notice that any passengers would attack him. The court reasoned that in the context of passenger-on-passenger violence, a cruise line has a duty to warn and/or protect when it or its employees reasonably apprehend the danger such that the attack was foreseeable. However, while the presence of a security officer during disembarkation connotes some awareness of the importance of order, a verbal dispute does not provide actual notice that a physical assault is to follow. View "Reinier Fuentes v. Classica Cruise Operator Ltd, Inc." on Justia Law
Savage Services Corp. v. United States
Enacted after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), creates a comprehensive remedial scheme that governs—and apportions liability for—oil-removal costs. OPA holds oil spillers strictly liable upfront for oil-removal expenses and allows them, if they meet certain requirements, to avail themselves of one of three liability defenses and to seek contribution from other culpable parties. The M/V SAVAGE VOYAGER was transporting oil through a Mississippi waterway when an accident at a boat lift— operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—caused a rupture in the SAVAGE VOYAGER’s hull, through which thousands of gallons of oil poured into the river.The owners of the vessel sued the United States, not under the OPA, but under the common-law admiralty regime. They cited the Suits in Admiralty Act (SAA), a 1920 law by which Congress generally waived sovereign immunity for most admiralty claims. The interplay between the OPA and the SAA was an issue of first impression in the federal courts. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the vessel owner’s claims for removal costs. OPA authorizes no claim against the government for oil-removal damages and OPA’s comprehensive remedial scheme displaced the SAA’s more general sovereign-immunity waiver. View "Savage Services Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law
Travelers Property Casualty Company of America v. Ocean Reef Charters LLC
The district court held on summary judgment that, under Eleventh Circuit precedent, federal maritime law requires strict compliance with captain and crew warranties in a marine insurance policy. The district court concluded that, because Ocean Reef breached those warranties, there was no coverage for the loss of its yacht under a policy issued by Travelers.The Eleventh Circuit applied Wilburn Boat Co. v. Firearm’s Fund Ins. Co., 348 U.S. 310, 316 (1955), and concluded that there does not exist entrenched federal maritime rules governing captain or crew warranties in this case. Therefore, Florida law applies to determine the effect of Ocean Reef's breaches. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Travelers Property Casualty Company of America v. Ocean Reef Charters LLC" on Justia Law
Buland v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd.
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
Quintero v. Geico Marine Insurance Co.
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
LaCourse v. Defense Support Services LLC
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
United States v. Davila-Mendoza
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