HomeCircuit Court Admiralty Cases2000 (September-December)

The following are links to selected Circuit Court opinions concerning admiralty and maritime law issued during the period September through December, 2000.

In re Bluewater Network & Ocean Advocates
District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals
December 22, 2000

Coast Guard Regulation/OPA 90: sections 4110(a) and (b) of OPA 90 indisputably command the Coast Guard to establish compliance standards and use requirements for tank level and pressure monitoring ("TLPM") devices by August 1991; because of this "clear statutory mandate, a deadline nine-years ignored, and an agency that has admitted its continuing recalcitrance," the Coast Guard was directed to undertake prompt rulemaking with respect to TLPM devices; the Coast Guard is not required to initiate rulemaking pursuant to section 4116(c) of OPA 90 to define waters other than Prince William Sound ("other waters") over which single-hulled tankers must be escorted by at least two towing vessels since the section places no clear and mandatory duty on the Coast Guard to undertake "other waters" rulemaking.

M/G Transporter Services v. Water Quality Insurance Syndicate
Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
December 12, 2000

Marine Insurance: the underwriter had no obligation to defend or indemnify the assured for liability arising from claims under the False Claims Act (FCA) since the underlying complaint simply did not assert a Clean Water Act violation and because the policy excluded intentional conduct, which had been pleaded in connection with the FCA violations.

In re the Complaint of the Endeavor Marine
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
December 11, 2000

Jones Act: a crane operator assigned to a derrick barge was a Jones Act seaman because: (1) he was permanently assigned to the barge and had spent almost all of the prior eighteen months on the barge before the accident; (2) his primary responsibility was to operate the cranes on board the barge, which had the sole purpose of loading and unloading cargo vessels; and (3) he was regularly exposed to the perils of the sea in the course of his employment.

South Port Marine v. Gulf Oil Ltd.
First Circuit Court of Appeals
December 7, 2000

Admiralty Jurisdiction: plaintiff's floating docks that were damaged by an oil spill were extensions of the land and hence a tort that causes damage to them does not occur wholly on navigable waters and therefore constitutes an action at law, rather than in admiralty; OPA 90/Jury Trials: although the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) does not create a statutory right to a jury trial, plaintiff has a Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial of its claims under the Act since they are analogous to causes of action at common law, rather than causes of action in admiralty; Punitive Damages: punitive damages are not available under OPA for marine pollution claims, nor are they available under the general maritime law in view of the enactment of OPA, which has supplanted the existing maritime law of punitive damages in cases of marine pollution.

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.

In re Barnacle Marine Management
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
December 1, 2000

Limitation of Liability Act: 33 U.S.C. section 408 of the Rivers and Harbors Act does not provide the United States with an in personam remedy against the owner of a vessel that damages a public work, thus the District Court's decision allowing the United States to proceed with an in personam claim against the vessel owner outside of the vessel owner's limitation action was in error.

In re ADM/Growmark River System
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
November 30, 2000

Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act/Indemnity: a dual capacity employer sued pursuant to section 905(b) of the Act for negligence in its capacity as vessel owner may terminate its rights to contribution from another vessel by agreeing to contractually indemnify that vessel, thus the indemnity provisions relevant to this case are valid to the extent that they preclude a contribution claim by the vessel owner employer against the other vessel.

In re Container Applications Intl.
Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
November 22, 2000

Maritime Liens: cargo containers leased in bulk to the owner of a group of vessels for unrestricted use on board the vessels in that group, are not "provided" to any particular vessel within the meaning of 46 U.S.C. § 31342(a), thus liens cannot be claimed for containers furnished in bulk to a fleet owner who then decides upon which vessels the containers will be placed.

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.

Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's v. Sinkovich
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
November 2, 2000

Experts: underwriters' marine surveyor who was not identified as an expert witness in response to discovery demands could not testify as an expert at trial, only as a lay witness; the District Court erred in allowing the marine surveyor, who had no personal knowledge of the events in question, to answer hypothetical questions and generally give his opinion in an expert manner, rather than as normal person would based upon first-hand perceptions; Evidence: the District Court also erred in admitting the marine surveyor's report as a business record since it was prepared in anticipation of litigation and consequently lacked the requisite trustworthiness.

Stewart v. Dutra Construction
First Circuit Court of Appeals
October 31, 2000

Jones Act: a dredge engaged in the excavation of a tunnel in the Boston Harbor, which was used primarily as an extension of land for the purpose of securing heavy equipment and was not in transit at the time of injury, is not a "vessel in navigation" for purposes of the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. app. § 688, thus plaintiff's personal injury claim under the Jones Act was properly dismissed.

Hartford Fire Insurance Co. v. Orient Overseas Containers Lines (UK)
Second Circuit Court of Appeals
October 27, 2000

Carriage of Goods by Sea Act ("COGSA"): COGSA does not apply as a matter of law after goods have been discharged from the vessel, thus COGSA did not apply as a matter of law to the inland portion of an intermodal carriage from Wisconsin to the Netherlands; COGSA could apply as a matter of contract between the parties, but the bill of lading, although potentially ambiguous, should be construed as applying by contract the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road ("CMR") to plaintiff's claim arising from the alleged theft of cargo in Belgium en route to the Netherlands; Admiralty Jurisdiction:  a "mixed"  maritime/non-maritime contract is subject to admiralty jurisdiction only where (1) the claim arises from a breach of maritime obligations that are severable from the non-maritime obligations of the contract or (2) the land-based portion of the contract is "merely incidental" to the sea-based portion; since neither of these exceptions is applicable here, plaintiff's cargo damage claim is subject to the court's diversity jurisdiction.

Sea-Land Service v. Sellan
Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
October 26, 2000

Settlement Agreements/Jones Act: the previous settlement agreement between plaintiff seaman and defendant vessel owner which prohibited plaintiff from future employment with defendant is enforceable, thus plaintiff's Jones Act claim for personal injury damage arising during plaintiff's surreptitious re-employment was properly dismissed.

Gulf Marine v. M/V Golden Prince
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
October 24, 2000

Maritime Liens: legal services are not "necessaries" under the Federal Maritime Lien Act, thus a law firm has no maritime lien against the sale proceeds of a vessel for which it performed legal services.

Racal Survey v. M/V Count Fleet
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
October 24, 2000

Maritime Liens: since the plaintiff supplier of seismic equipment looked solely to a party other than the vessel for payment, it had no maritime lien against the vessel for equipment supplied to the vessel's time charterer; a supplier of necessaries must also provide those goods or services to a vessel to receive a maritime lien, thus supplying the equipment directly to the time charterer, and not the vessel, provided an alternate basis for denying plaintiff's maritime lien claim; with respect to the vessel owner's separate lien claim for non-payment of charter hire, which was brought against equipment of the time charterer aboard the vessel, the court upheld the district court's decision denying such a claim since a vessel owner may only assert such a lien against cargo.

Mediterranean Shipping Co. v. Pol-Atlantic
Second Circuit Court of Appeals
October 13, 2000

Limitation of Liability Act: when a vessel owner personally warrants the seaworthiness of the vessel, the owner has made a personal contract and is not entitled to limitation under the Act; thus where the slot charter at issue contained such a personal promise, the slot charterers' indemnity claims against the owner for cargo damage fall outside the limitation proceeding; Arbitration: if on remand the district court concludes that the owner and slot charterers agreed to arbitrate within the meaning of the Federal Arbitration Act, and the slot charterers raise no other valid defenses, the court should grant owner's motion to stay the indemnity claims and require that such claims be brought in London arbitration pursuant to the charter.

In re the EXXON VALDEZ, Seafood Processors v. Baker
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
October 12, 2000

Settlement Agreements: cede back provisions of settlement agreements, where a settling plaintiff agrees to pay back to the settling defendant amounts recovered against that defendant in future lawsuits based on the settled claim, are enforceable and generally should not be disclosed to the jury; thus the district court was in error in refusing to enforce the cede back agreement between Exxon and the Seattle Seven seafood processors and in refusing to allow the Seattle Seven to participate in the allocation of the jury's punitive damages award against Exxon. 

DOWCP v. Newport News Shipbuilding
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
October 12, 2000

Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: in considering whether Newport News could amend its original § 8(f) claim for Special Fund relief to include a new ground for relief based on a pre-existing back condition subsequent to the district director's consideration of the claim, the court remanded the case for a determination whether Newport News could not have reasonably anticipated the liability of the Special Fund for the back injuries because it was unaware of critical information concerning the injuries before referral of the case to the Office of Administrative Law Judges. 

ContiChem LPG v. Parsons Shipping Co.
Second Circuit Court of Appeals
October 11, 2000

Maritime Attachment: plaintiff improperly attempted to circumvent the rule against a Rule B maritime attachment of property not yet in the bank's possession by improperly using a temporary restraining order under state law to prohibit the transfer of funds out of the district before the Rule B attachment could be served, thus the District Court's order vacating the Rule B maritime attachment of those funds was upheld; Arbitration: plaintiff was not entitled to a state law attachment under New York C.P.L.R. 7502(c) since that provision only allows attachment in aid of domestic arbitration and is consequently not available in aid of London arbitration.

Diefenbach v. Sheridan Transportation
First Circuit Court of Appeals
October 6, 2000

Experts: the district court did not abuse its discretion when it allowed plaintiff's expert witness to present expert testimony concerning docking and undocking procedures since the witness had the knowledge, skill, experience, training and education to qualify him as an expert and his testimony assisted the trier of fact to better understand the case; Damages: defendant's motion for remittitur on the grounds that the jury awarded excessive damages was properly denied since there was sufficient supporting evidence introduced regarding the plaintiff's injury, his inability to earn a living and the pain and suffering he experienced, is experiencing and will experience in the future; Jury Trials: defendant failed to request that the jury be instructed to reduce lost wages to present value and that any award is not subject to taxes, thus the district court's failure to so instruct is not reversible error. 

Lady v. Neal Glasser Marine, Inc.
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
September 26, 2000

Coast Guard Regulation: although the Federal Boat Safety Act and the Coast Guard's regulatory decisions do not expressly preempt plaintiff's state tort claim arising from injuries suffered as a result of a boating accident, implied conflict preemption does preclude his action because a state rule requiring propeller guards on recreational vessels would frustrate the Coast Guard's decision that recreational boats should not be required to be equipped with propeller guards.

Norfolk Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. v. Faulk
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
September 25, 2000 (Revised)

Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: the Administrative Law Judge's factual findings that supported a determination that Norfolk Shipbuilding was the last responsible employer under the Act, and thus liable for the full amount of the claim, were supported by substantial evidence and were therefore not reversible on appeal. 

Universal Maritime Services Co. v. Spitalieri
Second Circuit Court of Appeals
September 21, 2000

Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: an employer who paid a claimant compensation benefits for a temporary total disability during a period after he recovered from his injuries and became capable of returning to his usual employment was entitled to a credit for such overpayment to be applied to a schedule award for a permanent partial hearing loss arising out of the same accident.

Gravatt v. City of New York
Second Circuit Court of Appeals
September 18, 2000

Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: when the employer of an injured harbor worker is also the owner of the vessel and is sued by the harbor worker for negligence under section 905(b) for vessel negligence, the employer will be held liable only where it acted negligently in its vessel owning capacity, and not where its negligent conduct was performed in furtherance of its harbor-working operations; thus since the vessel owner/employer was not engaged in vessel duties at the time of the accident, its liability is limited by the LHWCA to compensation and it may not be held liable in tort to the injured employee. 

United States v. Lee
Second Circuit Court of Appeals
September 13, 2000

Criminal Law: defendant's guilty plea to seaman's manslaughter under 18 U.S.C. §1115
was upheld where the evidence showed that he directed a vessel loaded with illegal aliens to ground on a beach with orders that the illegal aliens jump overboard and swim to shore which directly lead to a number of deaths from drowning and hypothermia. 

In re Complaint of Ross Island Sand & Gravel
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
September 12, 2000

Limitation of Liability Act: under the "single claimant exception," if only one claim has been filed in a district court limitation proceeding, a district court is required to dissolve its injunction to permit the single claimant to pursue a separate action and jury trial if the single claimant: (1) stipulates that the value of the limitation fund equals the combined value of the vessel and its cargo; (2) waives the right to claim res judicata  based on any judgment rendered against the vessel owner outside of the limitation proceedings; and (3) concedes the district court's exclusive jurisdiction to determine limitation of liability issues; thus where the single claimant failed to stipulate to the value of the limitation fund, the district court's decision denying claimant's motion to dissolve the injunction was upheld.

Mannesman Demag Co. v. M/V Concert Express
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
September 8, 2000

Carriage of Goods: since the inland transportation of cargo under a through bill of lading occurs after Harter Act proper delivery, the Harter Act is not compulsorily applicable to a cargo damage claim arising from the the inland portion of a through carriage from Bremerhaven, Germany, to Terre Haute, Indiana.

Quigg Brothers-Schermer Inc. v. Commercial Union
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
September 5, 2000

Marine Insurance: a barge owner's expenses in recovering construction barges that had broken away from their moorings during a storm qualified as sue and labor, which were excluded from the owner's P & I policy as expenses recoverable under hull insurance, thus there was no coverage under the P & I policy for such expenses. 

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