The estate of a decedent was limited to recovery of only pecuniary losses as a matter of law against the manufacturer of a vessel that sank, killing the decedent, because the estate expressly premised its claim on 46 U.S.C.S. § 30104(a) as the decedent was a seaman employed as a crew member aboard the vessel when it sank.
In the Matter of the Complaint of COZY COVE MARINA, INC., as Owner of a 35′ CAROLINA CLASSIC MOTOR VESSEL, HULL ID NO. CAR3509A506, FOR Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA, EASTERN DIVISION
2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81948
November 5, 2007, Decided
Plaintiff, a marina, filed a maritime-law action to limit its liability to the value of a sunken vessel which killed two decedents. Defendants, decedents’ estates, filed claims against the marina. The marina filed an indemnity/contribution claim against third-party defendant, the vessel manufacturer. The manufacturer moved for partial summary judgment against both estates, to limit their recovery to pecuniary losses, and filed a motion in limine.
The manufacturer claimed that recovery by the estates was limited to pecuniary losses because they had not pleaded any state-law claims, and general federal maritime law limited recovery to pecuniary losses. The court initially held that the manufacturer’s motion was only ripe as to second estate because the provisions of federal maritime law limiting recovery to pecuniary losses did not apply to the first estate’s claim. The court then held that the second estate was limited to recovery of only pecuniary losses because the second estate expressly premised its claim on 46 U.S.C.S. § 30104(a), as the decedent was a seaman employed by the marina as a crew member aboard the vessel when it sank, and the second estate filed nothing in opposition to the manufacturer’s motion for partial summary judgment. The court further held that the U.S. Coast Guard accident report of the incident involving the vessel would be excluded as evidence because 46 U.S.C.S. § 6308(a) precluded the use of U.S. Coast Guard accident reports in private civil litigation.
The manufacturer’s motion for partial summary judgment concerning the second estate was granted. The manufacturer’s motion in limine to exclude the U.S. Coast Guard accident report was granted.
District court did not err in finding that yacht owners were entitled to exoneration under 46 U.S.C.S. § 30505 in connection with damage sustained by dock when yacht broke free from its anchorage during a hurricane where owners showed that damage could not have been prevented by exercise of reasonable care and owners’ preparations were reasonable.
DAVID T. FISCHER, individually, ALFRED J. FISHER, versus Plaintiff-Appellant, Intervenor-Plaintiff-Appellant, S/Y NERAIDA, her engines, tackle, rigging, dinghies, equipment, appurtenances, furniture, etc., in rem, NERAIDA CO., L.P., a Michigan Limited Partnership, PETER SIAVRAKAS, in personam Defendants-Intervenor- Defendants-Appellees.
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 26698
November 19, 2007, Decided
Appellant dock owner sought review of a judgment from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, which, after a bench trial, entered a judgment holding that appellee yacht owners were entitled to exoneration under 46 U.S.C.S. § 30505 in connection with damage sustained by the dock when the yacht broke free from its mid-lake anchorage during a hurricane.
To prepare for the hurricane, the yacht owners furled the yacht’s sails and dropped a self-setting second anchor. On appeal, the court held that (1) the district court, in accordance with the Louisiana Rule, correctly shifted the burden of proof to the yacht owners, stating that the yacht owners were relieved from liability only if they could show that the damage could not have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care, but once the yacht owners showed that their preparations were reasonable, the presumption that the yacht, as a moving vessel, was at fault was overcome; (2) the burden-shifting requirement of the Louisiana Rule did not convert the liability standard in allision cases from ordinary negligence to something more demanding than reasonable care under the circumstances; (3) the yacht owners were not required to show that nothing they could have done would have prevented the vessel from breaking free of its anchorage, as such an act of God defense was applied to an argument of superseding causation, which was not at issue in this case; and (4) the testimonial evidence showed that the yacht owners took reasonable care to secure the yacht against hurricane winds.
The court affirmed the district court’s judgment.
Seaman’s motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) was improperly denied without evidentiary hearing after his Jones Act case was dismissed pursuant to a purported settlement. The record did not indicate that seaman had an informed understanding of his rights under settlement agreement and the interests of justice outweighed a need for judgment finality.
JAMES BRAD STEVERSON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. GLOBALSANTAFE CORPORATION, d/b/a GLOBALSANTAFE DRILLING COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 26559
November 15, 2007, Filed
Plaintiff seaman appealed a decision of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, which denied the seaman’s motion brought under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) to vacate a judgment of dismissal entered in the seaman’s action against defendant employer, seeking recovery under the Jones Act and general maritime law for injuries sustained during his employment.
A magistrate judge entered a judgment of dismissal after attorneys for the parties announced a settlement, but no record of the settlement was taken by the court. The employer filed a motion to compel settlement when it was notified that the seaman would not sign the release, after which the seaman filed the present Rule 60 motion. On review, the court vacated the judgment, finding that the district court abused its discretion in denying the seaman’s motion and request for evidentiary hearing. Affidavits of the seaman supported the seaman’s assertion that he believed that he had 30 days to accept or decline the offer of settlement. The seaman’s Rule 60 motion was made within a reasonable amount of time, and the court concluded that the interests of justice outweighed the virtue of finality of the judgment. There was no evidence in the record from the seaman indicating that he had an informed understanding of his rights pursuant to the settlement agreement. The district court should have conducted an evidentiary hearing on the Rule 60(b) motion to resolve conflicting stories or to otherwise assess the legal advice provided to the seaman by his counsel.
The court vacated the district court’s denial of the seaman’s motion and remanded for an evidentiary hearing.
Seaman, who worked as a bedroom/galley hand on vessels operated by his employer, was entitled, in accordance with the Jones Act, to maintenance and cure, damages for pain and suffering, and damages for economic losses where he was injured in transport between two vessels due to negligence of one of the vessel’s owners.
TROY DOUSE, Plaintiff-Appellee v. GLOBAL PIPELINES PLUS, et al., Defendants-Appellants
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 25530
November 1, 2007, Filed
Appellants, an employer, an insurer, a vessel owner, and others, sought review of a judgment from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, which found that appellee seaman was entitled to maintenance and cure through the present, future maintenance and cure, past and future pain and suffering, and past and future economic losses.
Appellants contested the future economic losses award, the future medical expenses award, the past and future maintenance awards, and the past and future pain and suffering awards. They also sought a reduction of the lost wages and medical expense awards, as well as the award of prejudgment interest. On appeal, the court held that the district court’s decision was not affected by any error of law or clear error of fact. The seaman worked as a bedroom/galley hand on vessels owned and operated by the employer. Having been injured in transport between two vessels, due to the negligence of one of the vessel’s owners, the seaman, in accordance with the Jones Act, was entitled to the award that was rendered in his favor in the district court.
The court affirmed the district court’s judgment.
Under the Limitation of Vessel Owner’s Liability Act, court granted a tug owner partial summary judgment against bridge owner after the tug collided with bridge where the bridge owner could not establish the tug’s unseaworthiness or negligence of tug’s captain and tug owner proved lack of knowledge or privity of that unseaworthiness or negligence.
IN THE MATTER OF THE COMPLAINT OF SEA WOLF MARINE TOWING AND TRANSPORTATION, INC., AS OWNER OF THE TUG SEA WOLF FOR EXONERATION FROM OR LIMITATION OF LIABILITY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82565
November 6, 2007, Decided
Petitioner, an owner of a tug, moved for partial summary judgment pursuant to the Limitation of Vessel Owner’s Liability Act (Act), 46 U.S.C.S. app. §§ 181-189. Claimant railroad corporation opposed the motion.
Petitioner’s tug was assigned to transport an empty stone barge. The tug veered off course, then collided with a bridge owned by claimant, damaging the bridge. Petitioner brought this action pursuant to the Act, which allowed a vessel owner to limit liability for damage or injury, occasioned without the owner’s privity or knowledge, to the value of the vessel or the owner’s interest in the vessel. Specifically, claimant had to establish unseaworthiness or negligence and petitioner then had to prove lack of knowledge or privity of that unseaworthiness or negligence. The court granted petitioner summary judgment. The court first held that the tug’s captain was not incompetent based on his licensing, safety record, and experience. Moreover, there was no genuine issue for trial regarding the tug’s mechanical seaworthiness, as the tug was maintained regularly, it was fully manned with an experienced crew, and its radar worked. Finally, to successfully limit its liability, petitioner proved that it lacked knowledge or privity of the captain’s negligence, as petitioner provided a competent captain, whose decision not to post a lookout did not fall within petitioner’s knowledge or privity.
The court granted petitioner’s motion for partial summary judgment.