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Statute of Limitations/Laches

The following are digests and links to Circuit Court Admiralty Cases that have as an issue the statute of limitations/laches:

Newport News Shipbuilding v. Williams
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
July 11, 2002

Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act/Statute of Limitations: The question of whether a Claim has been filed in a timely manner relates to when Claimant, or when he had reason to know, that his injury was likely to impair his earning capacity.  Accepting the ALJ’s findings of fact, Claimant had no reason to know, before July 30, 1997, that his back condition was likely to impair his earning capacity. Therefore, as a matter of law, Claimant had one year from that date, or until July 30, 1998, to file his Claim. His Claim was then filed in a timely manner on August 27, 1997, well within the one-year limitations period.

Ayers v. United States
Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
January 17, 2002

Suits in Admiralty Act/Statute of Limitations: Since Plaintiff executor's claim that the United States was negligent when an Army Corps of Engineers lock master operated a lock on the Kentucky River causing the decedent to drown was within the court's admiralty jurisdiction, Plaintiff's exclusive remedy against the United States is governed by the Suits in Admiralty Act, 46 U.S.C.App. §§ 741-752 ("SAA"). Actions under the SAA are subject to a two-year statute of limitations and failure to bring an action under the SAA within two years following an injury deprives federal courts of subject matter jurisdiction. Since Plaintiff's Complaint was filed more than two years after the drowning, the district court properly dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction. Filing an administrative claim within the two year period under the Federal Tort Claims Act will not equitably toll the limitations period under the SAA.

Miller v. American Heavy Lifting
Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
November 3, 2000

Procedure/Wrongful Death/ Statute of Limitations: Plaintiff's amended complaint for wrongful death damages arising from exposure to hazardous substances on board defendant's vessel related back to the original complaint since it arose out of the same conduct, transaction or occurrence as set forth in the original complaint. Thus the district court was in error in dismissing the amended complaint on statute of limitations grounds where the original complaint was filed in a timely manner.

Underwood Cotton v. Hyundai Merchant Marine
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
April 26, 2002

Carriage of Goods by Sea Act ("COGSA")/Statute of Limitations: COGSA's one year period to bring an action against a carrier does apply to claims under the Federal Bills of Lading Act ("Pomerene Act"), 49 U.S.C. §§ 80101-80116, for bills of lading issued for the carriage of goods by sea.

Venus Lines Agency v. CVG International America
Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
December 4, 2000

Laches: The equitable doctrine of laches will bar a claim when three elements are present: (1) a delay in asserting a right or a claim, (2) that the delay was not excusable, and (3) that there was undue prejudice to the party against whom the claim is asserted. Since the plaintiff filed its demurrage claims within the analogous four year state statute of limitations period, the burden is on defendant to show inexcusable delay and resulting prejudice. Plaintiff's delay in pursuing two and three year old demurrage claims was inexcusable and prejudicial since no demands for payment were made at the time of the shipments, which prevented defendant from contemporaneously contesting the claims or demanding payment from the consignees. Plaintiff's one year old demurrage claims were timely. Demurrage/Interest: The tariff plaintiff submitted to the Federal Maritime Commission states that the interest rate on costs of collection of demurrage was twelve percent. Because the bills of lading incorporated all the terms and conditions of the tariff, the district court clearly erred in applying a ten percent interest rate rather than the twelve percent rate in the tariff.

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