Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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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

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After a tugboat collided with an oil-filled barge and caused 300,000 gallons of oil to spill in the Mississippi River, the United States filed suit against ACL, the statutorily-defined responsible party under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), 33 U.S.C. 2704(a), seeking a declaration that ACL was liable for all removal costs and damages, and to recover costs that it incurred. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the United States and final judgment ordering ACL to pay the United States $20 million. The court held that ACL failed to establish that it was entitled to the third-party defense because the conduct that caused the spill occurred "in connection" with DRD's contractual relationship with ACL. The court also held, in the alternative, that ACL was not entitled to OPA's general limit on liability because DRD's conduct fell within the exception from limited liability for spills proximately caused by gross negligence, willful misconduct, or federal regulatory violations. View "United States v. American Commercial Lines, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSCLA), 43 U.S.C. 1331 et seq., charges against the contractor defendants for failure to state an offense. The court assumed arguendo that section 1350(c) may expose contractors and subcontractors to criminal liability and held that the regulations did not apply to nor do they potentially criminalize defendants' conduct. The court also held that regulations that were specifically directed at lessees and permittees did not extend penalties to contractors and individuals; because the applicable regulatory definitions unambiguously exclude contractors, more general liability provisions did not control; and no prior judicial decision countenanced this action, which was at odds with a half century of agency policy. View "United States v. Moss" 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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GIC contracted with Freightplus to arrange for transport of a tugboat to Nigeria. Freightplus contracted with Yacht Path, who in turn contracted with IMC, as the vessel-operating common carrier. GIC filed suit against Freightplus when the tugboat did not discharge at the correct port, and Freightplus filed a third-party action against IMC. The court held that the non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC) and the vessel-operating common carrier (VOCC) relationship may give rise to a claim for maritime tort indemnity to the extent articulated in this case. Because the district court correctly determined that Freightplus was operating as an NVOCC and because its conclusion that IMC was negligent was not clearly erroneous, the court upheld its determination that IMC was liable to Freightplus. The court agreed with the district court's determination that Freightplus was not entitled to recover attorneys' fees from IMC. Because Freightplus has not demonstrated that IMC intended to release it from liability for the unpaid freight, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in this regard. Finally, the district court erred in barring IMC from proceeding against the tugboat in rem. Accordingly, the court reversed as to this issue and affirmed in all other respects. View "Gic Services, LLC. v. Freightplus USA, Inc." on Justia Law