Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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After an underwater sonar device (towfish) used by Tesla struck the mooring line of an offshore drilling rig owned by Shell, Shell filed suit against Tesla and International, the company who chartered a vessel for Tesla to pull the towfish, seeking damages arising from the accident. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Shell and apportioned 75% of the liability to Tesla and 25% to International. Tesla and International appealed, and while the appeal was pending, Tesla and Shell entered into a settlement agreement. The district court subsequently determined that Tesla was entitled to contribution from International toward the settlement amount. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment holding that International's vessel was a towing vessel and subject to towing regulations. The court also affirmed the jury's allocation of fault and the district court's calculation of the contribution owed by International. View "Shell Offshore, Inc. v. Tesla Offshore, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment determination that Nature's Way, as the owner of a tugboat, was also "operating" an oil barge that the tugboat was moving at the time of a collision, as the term was used in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA). The court held that the ordinary and natural meaning of "operating" under the statute would apply to the exclusive navigational control that Nature's Way exercised over the barge at the time of the collision. Therefore, the National Pollution Funds Center violated the Administrative Procedures Act by determining that Nature's Way was an operator of the barge and thus denying reimbursement on the grounds that its liability should be limited by the tonnage of the tugboat and not the tonnage of the barges. View "United States v. Nature's Way Marine, LLC" on Justia Law

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After a marine accident that resulted in damages estimated to exceed $60 million, Valero, Shell and Motiva asked the court to resolve whether the excess insurers of one of the involved vessels may limit their liability to that of the insured vessel. The district court held that the Protection and Indemnity policy covering the vessel has a Crown Zellerbach clause thereby permitting the excess insurers to limit their liability to that of the insured vessel. The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal based on lack of appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(3), holding that the district court's Order and Reasons failed to determine the rights and liabilities of the parties. The court found no compelling reason to distinguish between a district court's determination of a contractual entitlement rather than statutory entitlement to limit liability. The court joined the Eleventh Circuit in holding that neither decision was reviewable on appeal under section 1292(a)(3). View "SCF Waxler Marine, LLC v. Aris T M/V" on Justia Law

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A Himalaya Clause that protects downstream carriers from suit by a cargo owner does not, in and of itself, limit the cargo owner's ability to receive the recovery to which it is entitled. After Royal SMIT's transformers were damaged during shipment from the Netherlands to Louisiana, Royal SMIT and its insurers filed suit against the carriers with whom the intermediary had contracted. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the carriers, holding that the through bill of lading’s Himalaya Clause protected downstream carriers from being sued by Royal. The court rejected Royal's claims that there was a material issue of fact as to whether the parties agreed to be bound by the Himalaya Clause and held that Royal failed to articulate a basis for overriding the clear terms of the through bill of lading. View "Royal SMIT Transformers BV v. Onego Shipping & Chartering, BV" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Carrizo in an action stemming from a contract to plug and abandon oil wells. In the underlying action, a Crescent employee was severely injured. Crescent and its insurers denied that indemnity was owed despite the contractual language, and argued that Louisiana’s Oilfield Anti-Indemnity Act applied. The court held that the contract between Crescent and Carrizo was a maritime contract, because the contract was to facilitate the drilling or production of oil and gas on navigable waters, and the contract anticipated the constant and substantial use of multiple vessels. Therefore, federal law was applicable in this case and the Louisiana Oilfield Anti-Indemnity Act was inapplicable. View "In re: Crescent Energy Service" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted TKM's, the intervenor plaintiff, motion for panel rehearing and denied the motion for rehearing en banc. The court withdrew the prior opinion and substituted the following opinion. Daewoo filed suit against AMT, seeking an order compelling AMT to arbitrate and an attachment of pig iron owned by AMT. TKM attached the same pig iron in Louisiana state court and then intervened in the federal suit. The court held that it had subject matter jurisdiction under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, because Daewoo's suit related to a covered arbitration agreement. In this case, the parties dispute whether Louisiana's non-resident attachment statute allowed for attachment in aid of arbitration. The court declined to adopt a categorical approach to this issue and held that, because Louisiana law allowed for attachment in aid of yet-to-be-brought actions, non-resident attachment may be available in aid of arbitration when an eventual confirmation suit was contemplated. The court affirmed the district court's judgment, nonetheless, because Daewoo did not strictly comply with the attachment statute's procedural requirements. View "Stemcor USA Inc. v. Cia Siderurgica do Para Cosipar" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit held that a bunker supplier, having entered into a contract with a bunker trader that later went bankrupt, was not entitled to assert a maritime lien against the vessel that physically received its fuel. The court held that the supplier could not show that it provided necessaries on the order of the owner or a person authorized by the owner. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of the maritime lien. View "Valero Marketing & Supply Co. v. M/V Almi Sun" on Justia Law

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This case arose when one assisting tug allided with a bridge fender system and sank. The Fifth Circuit held that "tow" as used in Atlantic Specialty's policy was defined by its plain, ordinary meaning: a vessel that is provided auxiliary motive power by being pushed or pulled. A tug remains a tug when it is tugging (i.e., pushing or pulling), and a tow is a tow only when it is being towed (i.e., being pushed or pulled). In this case, because the MISS DOROTHY was not provided any extra motive power, it was not a tow. Therefore, Atlantic Specialty's policy did not apply. The court reversed the district court's application of the tort principle known as the "dominant mind" doctrine and rendered judgment in favor of Atlantic Specialty. View "Continental Insurance Co. v. L&L Marine Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit considered this case en banc to modify the criteria set forth in Davis & Sons, Inc. v. Gulf Oil Corp. for determining whether a contract for performance of specialty services to facilitate the drilling or production of oil or gas on navigable waters was maritime. The court adopted a simpler, more straightforward test consistent with the Supreme Court's decision in Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. Kirby for making this determination. The court adopted a two-prong test to determine whether a contract in this context was maritime: First, was the contract one to provide services to facilitate the drilling or production of oil and gas on navigable waters? Second, if the answer to the above question was "yes," did the contract provide or do the parties expect that a vessel will play a substantial role in the completion of the contract? Applying the new test to this case, the court held that the contract was nonmaritime and controlled by Louisiana law, which barred indemnity. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for LDI and granted summary judgment for STS. View "Larry Doiron, Inc. v. Specialty Rental Tools & Supply" on Justia Law

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After a longshoreman stepped through a hole in a decommissioned oil platform and fell 50 feet to his death, his spouse filed a negligence action against Manson. The platform sat atop a barge chartered by Manson, who ordered the hole's creation but did not cover the hole or warn of its existence. The district court granted summary judgment for Manson, finding no liability under any of the three Scindia duties: a turnover duty, a duty to exercise reasonable care in the areas of the ship under the active control of the vessel, and a duty to intervene. The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment with respect to the duty to warn of hidden dangers. In this case, there was conflicting evidence regarding whether the hole was a hidden hazard, one a stevedore would not anticipate. Finally, the court held that this case fell outside the narrow caveat in West v. United States, 361 U.S. 118, 119 (1959). Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Manson Gulf, LLC v. Modern American Recycling Service, Inc." on Justia Law