Articles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law

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Ficarra filed suit against petitioner, asserting claims of negligence stemming from a tort involving a vessel on navigable waters. More specifically, the case involves a diving accident off a recreational vessel anchored in shallow but navigable lake waters. The district court concluded that there was no admiralty jurisdiction here and reasoned that a recreational injury occurring on a recreational vessel anchored in a shallow recreational bay of navigable waters could not disrupt maritime commerce and did not bear a sufficient relationship to traditional maritime activity. Although the court concluded that the district court correctly articulated the Supreme Court’s modern test for admiralty tort jurisdiction, the court respectfully disagreed with its conclusion that jurisdiction is lacking here. The Supreme Court instructed the court that, “ordinarily,” “every tort involving a vessel on navigable waters falls within the scope of admiralty jurisdiction.” Therefore, petitioner's appeal of the dismissal of his petition seeking exoneration from or limitation of liability was proper, and the district court has jurisdiction over that petition. The court reversed and remanded. View "In Re Petition of Bruce Germain" on Justia Law

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Hicks was a deckhand on a tugboat when, while handling heavy gear, he injured his shoulder. A company doctor determined that Hicks was not fit for duty. His employer acknowledged its obligation to pay maintenance and cure and medical expenses until full recovery, maximum improvement, or until his condition was declared permanent, 46 U.S.C. 30104 (Jones Act). Hicks had surgery and physical therapy. His employer hired an investigator to videotape Hicks surreptitiously. The video showed Hicks planting a small tree and playing with his grandson. When Hicks’s doctor requested funding for an MRI scan, he was shown this footage and told that Hicks’s job required only light lifting. The doctor determined that Hicks was fit for duty. The employer terminated payments. Hicks consulted a second doctor, who diagnosed a recurrent rotator cuff tear and recommended another surgery plus rehabilitation. Under financial pressure, Hicks returned to work and missed physical therapy. His house went into foreclosure, and he was unable to pay for health insurance. Hicks sued, claiming negligence under the Jones Act and the maritime doctrines of unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure. The jury awarded $190,000 for past and future maintenance and cure and $132,000 for pain and suffering. Based on a finding that the failure to pay was unreasonable and willful, Hicks was awarded $123,000 in punitive damages and $112,083.77 in attorney’s fees. The Second Circuit affirmed. View "Hicks v. Vane Line Bunkering, Inc." on Justia Law

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From 1987 to 2001, Bengis and Noll engaged in a scheme to harvest large quantities of South Coast and West Coast rock lobsters from South African waters for export to the United States in violation of both South African and U.S. law. Defendants, through their company, Hout Bay, harvested rock lobsters in amounts that exceeded the South African Department of Marine and Coastal Management’s quotas. In 2001, South Africa seized a container of unlawfully harvested lobsters, declined to prosecute the individuals, but charged Hout Bay with overfishing. Bengis pleaded guilty on behalf of Hout Bay. South Africa cooperated with a parallel investigation conducted by the United States. The two pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit smuggling and violate the Lacey Act, which prohibits trade in illegally taken fish and wildlife, and to substantive violations of the Lacey Act. Bengis pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. The district court entered a restitution order requiring the defendants to pay $22,446,720 to South Africa. The Second Circuit affirmed, except with respect to the extent of Bengis’s liability, rejecting an argument the restitution order violated their Sixth Amendment rights. View "United States v. Bengis" on Justia Law

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In 1953, New York and New Jersey entered into the Waterfront Commission Act, establishing the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor to govern operations at the Port of New York‐New Jersey. At that time, individual pieces of cargo were loaded onto trucks, driven to the pier, and then unloaded for loading, piece‐by‐piece, onto the vessel. Similarly, arriving cargo was handled piece-by-piece. Containerization transformed shipping: a shipper loads cargo into a large container, which is loaded onto a truck and transported to the pier, where it is lifted aboard a ship. Continental operates warehouses, including one at 112 Port Jersey Boulevard, Jersey City. Continental picks up containers from the Global Marine Terminal, transports them to the Warehouse, unloads them, and removes their contents. Continental stores the freight and provides other services, such as sampling, weighing. and wrapping. In 2011, the Commission advised Continental that it was required to obtain a stevedore license, concluding that the property line and building of the 112 Warehouse were within 1,000 yards of a pier. Continental sought a declaratory judgment. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court holding that Continental engages in stevedoring activities at the warehouse and that the warehouse is an ʺother waterfront terminalʺ under the Act and within the Commission’s jurisdiction. View "Cont'l Terminals, Inc. v. Waterfront Comm'n of N.Y. Harbor" on Justia Law

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D'Amico filed suit to enforce an English court's judgment on a forward freight agreement (FFA) between D'Amico and Primera. On appeal, D'Amico challenged the district court's dismissal of its complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The district court granted Primera's motion to dismiss, holding that the suit did not fall under the federal courts' admiralty jurisdiction because the English judgment was not rendered by an admiralty court and the claim underlying the judgment was not deemed to be maritime under English law. The court concluded that, under 28 U.S.C. 1333, United States courts have jurisdiction to enforce a judgment of a foreign non-admiralty court if the claim underlying that judgment would be deemed maritime under the standards of U.S. law. Because the district court did not consider this question, the court remanded to the district court to make that determination in the first instance. Therefore, the court vacated the judgment and remanded. View "D'Amico Dry Ltd. v. Primera Maritime, et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioners filed a petition for limitation on liability after visitors of their powerboat were involved in a fistfight on a floating dock operated by Claimant. At issue was whether federal admiralty jurisdiction extended to tort claims arising from a physical altercation among recreational visitors on and around a permanent dock surrounded by navigable water. The court held that federal admiralty jurisdiction did not reach the claims at issue because this type of incident did not have a potentially disruptive effect on maritime commerce. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Tandon v. Ulbrick" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, injured while working on the Motor Vessel Liberty Sun, filed suit against his employer and others asserting claims for damages under a negligence theory and an admiralty cause of action against the owners of "unseaworthy" vessels. The court declined to adopt the maritime rescue doctrine and held that the correct standard of care in maritime injury cases is that of a reasonable mariner under the circumstances. Since evidence supported the conclusion that abnormal forces were acting on the Liberty Sun at the time, she was not unseaworthy as a matter of law. The court considered plaintiff's remaining arguments and found them to be without merit. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Barlow, Jr. v. Liberty Maritime, et al." on Justia Law

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American, a corporation in the business of transporting petroleum products by water, filed suit against the City for common law negligence and for violation of 33 U.S.C. 494, which required that a drawbridge over navigable water be opened promptly by the persons owning or operating such bridge upon reasonable signal for the passage of boats and other water craft. Due to a mechanical malfunction, which American alleged was the result of negligence, the City did not open the Pelham Parkway Bridge, delaying American's tug and barge for approximately two and a half days. At issue was whether, under maritime law, an owner of a vessel could be awarded damages for economic loss due to negligence in the absence of physical damage to its property. Although the court concluded that Robins Dry Dock & Repair Co. v. Flint has been overread to establish a rule barring damages for economic loss in the absence of an owner's property damage, the court believed that the rule has been so consistently applied in admiralty that it should continue to be applied unless and until altered by Congress or the Supreme Court. View "American Petroleum and Transport v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an in rem action in federal court laying claim to the intact shipwreck of an early nineteenth century wooden schooner at the bottom of Lake Erie under admiralty law as the finder and salvor of the sunken vessel. New York intervened, asserting title under state law and the Abandoned Shipwreck Act, 43 U.S.C. 4101 et seq. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of New York. The court concluded that abandonment could be inferred from circumstantial evidence and affirmed the judgment of the district court on the basis that the record demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that the shipwreck was abandoned within the meaning of the Act. The court also concluded that plaintiff failed to raise a material dispute of fact on this issue. View "Northeast Research, LLC v. One Shipwrecked Vessel" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from a maritime contract entered into by Blue Whale and Development. Blue Whale filed a complaint in district seeking to attach property belonging to Development's alleged alter ego, HNA, in anticipation of a future arbitration award against Development pursuant to Rule B of the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims. The court concluded that the district court properly applied federal maritime law to the procedural question of whether Blue Whale's claim sounded in admiralty, and the claim did sound in admiralty because it arose out of a maritime contract; the issue of the claim's prima facie validity was a substantive inquiry; however, the district court's application of English law to this question was improper because the charter's party's choice-of-law provision did not govern Blue Whale's collateral alter-ego claim against HNA; and drawing on maritime choice-of-law principles, the court held that although federal common law did not govern every claim of this nature, federal common law did apply here, primarily because of the collateral claim's close ties to the United States. Accordingly, the court remanded for reconsideration of the prima facie validity of Blue Whale's alter-ego claim under federal common law. View "Blue Whale Corp. v. Grand China Shipping Dev. Co., Ltd., et al." on Justia Law