Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
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The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court granting the government's motion to dismiss this lawsuit alleging improper termination and breach of contract for failure to state a claim on the grounds that the claims were time-barred, holding that there was no basis to disturb the district court's decision.This matter arose out of a contract for between J-Way Southern and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for dredging water waters in Menemsha Harbor, Martha's Vineyard. After USACE terminated the contract J-Way filed suit, alleging improper termination and breach of contract. The district court granted USACE's motion to dismiss, concluding that J-Way's claims were time-barred. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court had jurisdiction over this maritime contract dispute; and (2) the district court properly denied the government's motion to dismiss. View "J-Way Southern, Inc. v. United States Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss this action seeking damages for injuries received in a boating accident, holding that this case was allowed to proceed in Plaintiffs' chosen forum.Plaintiffs were ferrying in a small boat when another boat, owned by Defendant, plowed into Plaintiffs' boat and sunk it. The crash also left one of the Plaintiffs with serious personal injuries. Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant, a U.S. citizen, in Massachusetts, bringing claims for maritime negligence, loss of consortium, and property damages. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint for forum non conveniens, arguing that Greece was the most appropriate venue for the case. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the case. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the district court abused its discretion in failing to hold Defendant to his burden of showing that the public and private interest factors displaced the presumption weighing in favor of Plaintiffs' initial forum of choice. View "Curtis v. Galakatos" on Justia Law

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In this dispute between a boat owner and his insurance company, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of the insurer, holding that the district court properly applied the doctrine of uberrimae fidei in this case.When Defendant applied for an insurance policy for his yacht from an entity later acquired by Plaintiff he failed to disclose that he had grounded a forty-foot yacht in Puerto Rico. Plaintiff later sought a declaratory judgment voiding the policy on the grounds that Defendant had failed to honor his duty of utmost good faith, known as uberrimae fidei in maritime law, in acquiring the policy and had therefore breached the warranty of truthfulness contained in the policy. The district court concluded that Plaintiff was entitled to void the policy. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court correctly concluded that the uberrimae fidei doctrine entitled Plaintiff to a declaration that the policy was void. View "QBE Seguros v. Morales-Vazquez" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the district court's order denying in part Defendants' motions to dismiss this suit brought Plaintiffs, a putative class of shippers who use the services of ocean freight carriers to import goods into Puerto Rico through the Port of San Juan, holding that Plaintiffs lacked standing to sue for a declaration that the collection of a fee from the carriers was unlawful.Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from a cargo scanning program implemented by the Puerto Rico Ports Authority (PRPA). Pursuant to that program, PRPA contracted with Rapiscan Systems, Inc. to provide the technology and services needed to scan all containerized inbound cargo. Rapsican assigned its rights and obligations to S2 Services Puerto Rico LLC (S2). PRPA charged ocean freight carriers a fee for their use of the of the scanning facilities at the maritime port. Plaintiffs sued PRPA, Rapiscan, and S2 (collectively, Defendants) alleging that, in response to the fee, the carriers were forced to be collection agents that collected fees from the shipper entities. The district court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motions to dismiss. The First Circuit remanded this case for dismissal on jurisdictional grounds, holding that Plaintiffs failed to set forth allegations that were sufficient to establish their standing. View "Dantzler, Inc. v. S2 Services Puerto Rico, LLC" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the decision of the district court dismissing for failure to state a claim this suit challenging the federal government's decision not to waive indefinitely the cabotage provision of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria, holding that Plaintiffs lacked standing and dismissal was required on jurisdictional grounds.In this suit, Plaintiffs challenged the provision of the Jones Act, which applies to Puerto Rico and prohibits foreign-flag vessels from transporting merchandise between United States coastwise points. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The First Circuit vacated the judgment below and remanded for the claims to be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, holding that Plaintiffs, each of whom owned real estate and/or personal property in Puerto Rico, failed to set forth allegations in their complaint that were sufficient to establish standing. View "Perez-Kudzma v. United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Appellants' convictions for drug trafficking under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA), 46 U.S.C. 70501-70508, holding that the protective principle of international law permitted the United States to arrest and prosecute Appellants even if, as they argued, their vessel possessed Costa Rican nationality.Appellants were on a small speed boat in the western Caribbean Sea when they were interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard and subsequently arrested. Appellants moved to dismiss their indictment under the MDLEA, which allows U.S. law enforcement to arrest foreign nationals for drug crimes committed in international waters, arguing that the statute exceeds Congress's authority under Article I of the Constitution and violates the Due Process Clause. The district court denied the motion to dismiss, and Appellants pleaded guilty. On appeal, Appellants again challenged the constitutionality of the MDLEA, arguing that their vessel was not properly deemed stateless. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the protective principle of international law, as applied by the First Circuit, permits prosecution under the MDLEA even of foreigners on foreign vessels; and (2) there was no abuse of discretion in the sentence imposed. View "United States v. Davila-Reyes" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs within the zone of danger may recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress under the general maritime law.Plaintiffs brought this maritime action against Defendant, which they hired to ferry three construction vehicles and their drivers from Rockland, Maine to North Haven, Maine, after two of the vehicles tipped over onto the vessel’s port bulwark during rough seas. Plaintiffs claimed that the ship captain was negligent and seeking damages for property loss and emotional distress. The district court found in favor of Plaintiffs and awarded $257,154 in damages, including $100,000 for emotional distress. The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in substantial part, vacating only one element of the damages award, holding (1) the district court properly found that the weather conditions that caused the incident were foreseeable; (2) the district court’s award for damaged plywood panels rested on a clearly erroneous view of the facts, but the remainder of the damages award was not in error; (3) maritime plaintiffs within the “zone of danger” can recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress in the First Circuit; and (4) the district court did not clearly err in determining that Plaintiffs were within the zone of danger and that they experienced physical consequences of emotional distress. View "Sawyer Brothers, Inc. v. Island Transporter, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning the application and operation of Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the First Circuit held that the exclusionary remedy limned in Article 31(d) applies to evidence offered in a trial by court-martial but not in a non-judicial punishment proceeding.Petitioner, a petty officer in the United States Navy, received a non-judicial punishment, rescission of his recommendation for promotion, and an adverse employment evaluation. Petitioner appealed, alleging, inter alia, that his waiver of Article 31 rights was involuntary. The Board of Correction of Naval Records upheld the adverse employment consequences. Petitioner sought judicial review. The district court refused to set aside the Board’s decision. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the Board’s determination of voluntariness and its approval of the adverse employment consequences were in accordance with law. View "Sasen v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit declined to extend the reach of a maritime lien claim to encompass a pre-established purchase cost of items rented by a charterer pursuant to a temporary rental and service contract and affirmed the judgment of the district court limiting the in rem maritime lien claim of Appellant on the arrested ship, the M/V NOVA STAR.Appellant’s claim arose from its agreement with the ship’s charterer to rent linens and other items for the ship’s ferry service. The district court refused to grant Appellant’s maritime lien claim in its entirety and entered judgment for Appellant in the amount of $16,187. The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding (1) the court properly limited the maritime lien to the amount of $16,187; and (2) the court correctly concluded that the inventory remaining in Appellant’s warehouse in Westbrook, Maine was not “delivered” in a manner as to create a maritime lien for its replacement cost according to the default provision of the rental contract. View "Maine Uniform Rental, Inc. v. Nova Star M/V" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part a district court order dismissing claims brought by Ironshore Specialty Insurance Company, the entity that paid the clean-up costs after a large military vessel spilled over 11,000 gallons of fuel next to Boston Harbor, against American Overseas Marine Company, LLC (AMSEA) and the United States. Ironshore sought cleanup costs and damages under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990, a declaratory judgment finding AMSEA and the United States to be strictly liable under the OPA, and damages sounding in general admiralty and maritime law as a result of AMSEA’s and the United States’ alleged negligence. The district court dismissed all claims. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the dismissal of all of Ironshore’s claims against AMSEA; (2) affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Ironshore’s OPA claims against the United States; but (3) reversed the district court’s dismissal of Ironshore’s general admiralty and maritime negligence claims brought against the United States under the Suits in Admiralty Act because these claims were not foreclosed by the OPA. View "Ironshore Specialty Insurance Co. v. United States" on Justia Law