HomeCircuit Court Admiralty CasesCollisions/Casualties

The following are digests and case links to Circuit Court Admiralty Cases that have as an issue collisions/casualties:

Tisbury Towing v. Tug Venus
First Circuit Court of Appeals
June 5, 2001

Collisions/Casualties: The district court was not clearly erroneous in finding that the barge Owner had not met its burden of proving when the grounding occurred and therefore could not prove that the tug VENUS had ever grounded while towing its barge ALGOL 500.

Tokio Marine & Fire v. M/V FLORA
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
January 3, 2001

Collisions/Casualties: The district court was not clearly erroneous in finding as a matter of fact that outbound vessel's violation of COLREG Rule 5 (failure to have a proper look-out) was only a relatively small contributory cause of the collision at the Southwest Pass. The Pennsylvania Rule does not apply to violations of Rule 8(c) (alteration of course to avoid a close-quarters situation) since its provisions do not impose a "precise and clearly defined duty." Appellant inbound vessel did not prove at trial that there was a local custom in the Southwest Pass that outbound vessels must take extra care when leaving the area to avoid a collision, and inbound vessels have the right of way. Comparative Fault: The district court's finding that the inbound vessel was 80% at fault and the outbound vessel was 20% at fault was not clearly erroneous in view of the evidence presented as to the causes of the collision, including a finding that the  overwhelming percentage of the collision was caused by inbound vessel's violation of the port-to-port passing agreement and the lack of communication with the outbound vessel.

Grosse Ile Bridge Co. v. American Steamship
Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
September 9, 2002

Collisions/Casualties: On September 6, 1992, the M/V H. Lee White, a 700-foot cargo vessel carrying 67 million pounds of iron ore, struck the Grosse Ile Toll Bridge, a pivot-swinging drawbridge on the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River. The district court properly found that the bridge was at fault for not timely swinging the bridge open. The district court erred, however, in absolving the vessel from any fault. Once the captain of the vessel decided to stop short of the bridge by reversing engines, it was unreasonable to delay dropping the port-bow anchor which could have stopped the vessel short of the bridge.

I & M Rail Link v. Northstar Navigation
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
January 5, 2000

Collisions/Casualties: The presumption of vessel fault applicable when a vessel hits a stationary object may be overcome by a Coast Guard report that the struck bridge was an unreasonable obstruction to navigation. 

In re MO Barge Lines
Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
March 15, 2004

Collisions/Casualties: During the early hours of July 31, 2000, the Miss Belterra, a new casino vessel heading up the Mississippi River, collided with the Elizabeth Ann, a towboat pushing concrete barges down the river. The district court properly found that Elizabeth Ann's pilot violated Inland Navigation Rule 14 when he failed to propose the manner of passing as he was the downward vessel. It is mandatory that a downward vessel on the Mississippi River propose the manner of passage and initiate the maneuvering signals that will be used. Limitation of Liability Act: To determine a vessel owner's entitlement to limit its damages, a court must determine (1) whether negligence or unseaworthiness caused the accident, and (2) whether the shipowner was privy to, or had knowledge of, the causative agent.  Unseaworthiness was not supported by the record since the pilot's decision not to increase the radar's range when he first noticed approaching lights was navigational error, rather than evidence of incompetence that would render the vessel unseaworthy. Further, the towboat owner was not in privity since it had hired a licensed, competent pilot to navigate its vessel and it was not on notice that the pilot would operate the vessel negligently. Owner could thus limit its liability.

Arkansas State Highways Comm. v. Arkansas River Co.
Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
October 16, 2001

Seaworthiness/Casualties/Charter Parties: Because the United States Army Corps of Engineers ("Corps"), the owner of the barge, tendered the barge to the tug's captain with a boom that was unobviously raised such that it could not pass safely under a Mississippi River bridge, the barge was unseaworthy on delivery and the Corps was 100% liable for the resulting damages.

Bunge Co. v. Freeport Marine Repair
Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
January 30, 2001

Collisions/Casualties: Although Hull No. 40 was under construction when it broke from its moorings during a hurricane and damaged a grain-loading facility along the waterway, it was a vessel for purposes of admiralty tort jurisdiction and the Louisiana Rule, which stipulates that a moving vessel that strikes a stationary object is presumed to be at fault.  Admiralty Jurisdiction: Since the allision occurred in navigable waters due to the imperfect mooring of a nearly complete vessel, the incident bore a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity and was properly within admiralty tort jurisdiction. Government Regulation: The grain-loading facility was not in violation of a 33 U.S.C. 403, which requires a permit for structures that partially obstruct a waterway, since the facility was grandfathered under government regulations and did not interfere with navigation. Thus, the Pennsylvania Rule, which bars a plaintiff in violation of a federal statute from recovering damages unless that plaintiff can prove that its own violation could not have caused the loss, is not applicable.

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