HomeCircuit Court Admiralty Cases2002 (January-April)
The following are links to selected Circuit Court opinions concerning admiralty and maritime law issued during the period January through April, 2002.

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.

Hurd v. United States
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
April 25, 2002

Suits in Admiralty Act: In the early morning hours of December 29, 1997, the S/V MORNING DEW sank after colliding with the north jetty leading into the Charleston Harbor. None of the passengers onboard the thirty-four foot sailboat survived. The Coast Guard was properly found liable for the deaths by undertaking to render aid to the passengers of the MORNING DEW and for recklessly and wantonly terminating that aid in a manner that worsened the decedents' positions. 

Nunez v. B & B Dredging
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
April 23, 2002

Jones Act: A land-based employee who is permanently assigned to work in the service of a vessel as a dredge dump foreman, but who spends only 10% of his time working aboard the vessel, is not a Jones Act seaman.

R.M.S. Titanic v. The Wrecked and Abandoned Vessel
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
April 12, 2002

Salvage/In Rem Action: R.M.S. Titanic, Inc. ("RMST") is the salvor-in-possession of the submerged wreck R.M.S. Titanic and artifacts salvaged from the wreck. But RMST's salvage lien in the artifacts has not converted to title in the artifacts. RMST must first complete the salvage service that it intends to perform and have its salvage reward determined. Only after its reward is determined can it seek to enforce the lien against the artifacts themselves.

In re Graham Offshore
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
April 9, 2002

Maritime Torts/Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act: Nothing in the Coast Guard mandated Emergency Evacuation Plan ("EEP") imposes a legal duty on the rig owner to oversee the operations of the boat that is used to evacuate personnel from the rig, which is instead the duty of the boat owner and the boat's time charterer.

Sea-Land Service v. Lozen International
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
April 3, 2002

Carriage of Goods by Sea Act ("COGSA"): The terms printed on Sea-Land's bills of lading control the parties' agreement in this case although express sea waybills were issued electronically, and Sea-Land did not give a printed copy of the terms to Plaintiff. Since those terms did not guarantee delivery by a date certain, Plaintiff's late delivery claim was properly dismissed. But, the "liberty clauses" in Sea-Land's bills of lading cannot unequivocally insulate the company from liability because, although they are generally enforceable, a liability limitation in a bill of lading is unenforceable to the extent that it authorizes the carrier to engage in an unreasonable deviation. In order for a deviation to be "unreasonable," the carrier must intentionally have
caused damage to the shipper's goods. The district court therefore erred in dismissing Plaintiff's deviation claim where a genuine issue of fact existed as to whether Sea-Land's rail agent committed an unreasonable deviation by deliberately refusing to cooperate once it was known that Plaintiff's cargo of grapes had been placed on the wrong train. 

O'Hara v. Weeks Marine
April 1, 2002
Second Circuit Court of Appeals

Jones Act: To establish seaman status, an employee must establish his or her (1) 'employment-related connection," (2) to a "vessel in navigation." An "employment-related connection" to a vessel exists if two conditions are satisfied: First, the "worker's duties must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission"; second, the worker's connection to the vessel must be "substantial in both its duration and its nature." Plaintiff was not a seaman because his connection to a vessel was insufficiently substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature.  While Plaintiff spent more than half his working hours during a five-month period aboard the barges, he spent all of that time performing tasks related to repair of the Staten Island pier, while the barges were secured to the pier. Plaintiff further produced no evidence that he derives his livelihood from "sea-based activities." Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: The district court was in error in dismissing Plaintiff's 905(b) claim against Weeks as a vessel owner since a reasonable jury could find based upon the evidence presented that Weeks breached either the "duty to intervene" or the "active control" duty. Weeks further is not entitled to the immunity afforded dual-capacity employers under 905(b) since it was only the vessel owner, not both the employer and vessel owner.

Glencore Grain v. Shivnath Rai Harnarian Co.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
March 26, 2002

Arbitration: The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, 9 U.S.C.§§ 201-208, does not eliminate the due process requirement that a federal court have jurisdiction over a defendant's person or property in a suit to confirm a previously issued arbitration award. Because Plaintiff failed (1) to identify any property owned by Defendant in the forum, or (2) to allege facts that support a finding of personal jurisdiction, the district court properly dismissed the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Fernandez v. Haynie
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
March 25, 2002

Marine Insurance/Admiralty Jurisdiction: A fishing vessel owner's contract claim against its broker for failure to place his insurance with an "A" rated domestic insurer was within the court's admiralty jurisdiction. 

Stevens v. Premier Cruises, Inc.
Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
March 1, 2002

Government Regulation: The motion for rehearing and request for an en banc hearing were denied, with the  Court reaffirming its June 22, 2000 decision that the district court erred in concluding that Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") does not as a matter of law apply to foreign-flag cruise ships sailing in United States waters.

Centennial Insurance v. Lithotech Sales
Third Circuit Court of Appeals
February 26, 2002

Marine Insurance: Under Wilburn Boat Co. v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co., 348 U.S. 310 (1955), New Jersey law governs the open cargo policy, which was drafted, signed, and delivered between New Jersey corporations within New Jersey. In New Jersey, the terms of an insurance policy, absent ambiguity, should be given "their plain ordinary meaning." The clause at issue, which provided coverage for damages resulting from the issuance of fraudulent bills of lading, was clear and unambiguous, and, since there are no facts which even suggest that the bill of lading was fraudulent or that its acceptance caused the harm, plaintiff failed to articulate facts sufficient to invoke coverage under the the clause.

Weaver v. Director, OWCP
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
February 26, 2002

Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: Attorneys fees incurred by the claimant within the 30 day window stipulated by 33 U.S.C. § 928(a) may be assessed against the employer. If the employer denies a claim within the 30 day window, and the other triggers have been satisfied, the fees accrued thereafter properly may be assessed against the employer, even though they are incurred before the thirtieth day following receipt of notice.

Johnston v. Director, OWCP
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
February 22, 2002

Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: In a situation where actual wages have remained constant, a claimant's post-injury earnings need not be adjusted for inflation. Under such circumstances, the actual wages without adjustment for inflation "fairly and reasonably represent [the claimant's] wage-earning capacity" as required by 33 U.S.C. § 908(h).

Inlandboatmens Union of the Pacific v. Dutra Construction
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
February 7, 2002

Labor Law/Arbitration: Disputes arising under a side agreement that does not contain an arbitration provision must nonetheless be arbitrated if the dispute relates to a subject that is within the scope of the collective bargaining agreement's ("CBA") arbitration clause. Thus, the dispute here over a settlement agreement concerning subcontracting procedures, which is a matter explicitly referred to in the CBA, must be arbitrated under the CBA's broad arbitration clause. 

Yu v. Albany Insurance Co.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
February 7, 2002

Marine Insurance: Since the assured owner did not notify the underwriter before the vessel' s captain was replaced, thus breaching the hull policy's "Captain Warranty" (which provided that the policy would be suspended when the vessel's captain was replaced unless the underwriter had approved the new captain in advance), the owner's claim under the policy for the total loss of the fishing vessel due to sinking was properly denied.

Dahlen v. Gulf Crews, Inc.
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
February 4, 2002

Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act/Charter Parties: The standard of care owed a longshore worker by a vessel owner as articulated in Scindia and Howlett does not explicitly apply to time charterers. But, as no other case articulating the duty owed by a time charterer in such a situation could be found, the district court did not abuse its discretion by issuing a jury instruction that applied Scindia to the time charterer. Indemnity: The vessel owner did not owe the time charterer an indemnity under the charter's indemnity and insurance clause since the injury to Plaintiff did not arise out of or relate to the performance of the vessel during the charter. Admiralty Jurisdiction/Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act ("OCSLA"): The district court erred in applying the Admiralty Extension Act, 46 U.S.C. § 740, and maritime law since Plaintiff's alleged injury was not caused by the defective appurtenance of a ship on navigable waters and, furthermore, the OCSLA specifically regards the artificial islands on the OCS as areas where state law should apply unless there is a conflict with federal law. 

Christensen v. Georgia Pacific Co.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
February 1, 2002

Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: Plaintiff longshoreman was injured while helping to retie the Asian Hawk, a vessel which he was working for and which had broken free from the dock during heavy weather. He filed negligence claims against the Asian Hawk's owner, a second vessel that had been tied to the same cleat on the dock, and the dock owner. Plaintiff's claim against the Asian Hawk was wrongly dismissed by the district court since the vessel did owe a duty to Plaintiff under Scindia's active control duty and the intervention duty. Further, the second vessel, while not owing Plaintiff any Scindia duties, did owe under the Longshore Act a duty of reasonable care under the circumstances. Maritime Torts: Plaintiff's claim against the dock owner may not be brought under the Longshore Act, but may be brought as a maritime tort under general maritime law. Maritime Torts (Proximate Cause): The district court's conclusion that Plaintiff's back injury was not a foreseeable result of Defendants' acts was also in error. Proximate cause is a means of cutting off liability for consequences that are so far removed from the conduct at issue that there is no justification for imposing liability. Giving inferences to Plaintiff, there is at least a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Plaintiff's injury falls into this category.

Delaware River Stevedores v. Director, OWCP
Third Circuit Court of Appeals
January 30, 2002

Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: "In determining the responsible employer in the case of multiple traumatic injuries, if the disability results from the natural progression of an initial injury and would have occurred notwithstanding a subsequent injury, then the initial injury is the compensable injury and accordingly the employer at the time of that injury is responsible for the payment of benefits. If, on the other hand, the subsequent injury aggravates, accelerates, or combines with claimant's prior injury, thus resulting in claimant's disability, then the subsequent injury is the compensable injury and the subsequent employer is fully liable."

Harper v. United States Seafoods LP
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
January 29, 2002

Labor Law: 46 U.S.C. § 10601, which requires the master of a fishing vessel to "make an . . . agreement in writing" with each crewmember before a voyage, also requires the master's signature on the agreement, and the master's failure to have signed the agreement at issue renders it invalid.

Bora Do v. Ocean Peace Inc.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
January 29, 2002

Labor Law: Since plaintiffs worked as initial fish processors on the factory trawler F/T Ocean Peace, they are exempt employees under the "first processing" provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219, which relieved Ocean Peace from federal minimum wage and hour requirements. But, plaintiffs are not barred from bringing their wages claims by the six-month limitations period for in rem actions contained in 46 U.S.C. § 10602 since their employment agreements were invalid because they lacked a master's signature as required by 46 U.S.C. § 10601.

Matson Terminals v. Werner Berg
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
January 29, 2002

Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: Because the injuries to claimant's two knees are discrete injuries under 33 U.S.C § 908(f), the Board was correct in imposing two 104 week liability periods on the employer. It is irrelevant that the injuries arose from the same working conditions or that they arose from a single cause or trauma. 

Salim Oleochemicals v. M/V Shropshire
Second Circuit Court of Appeals
January 18, 2002

Arbitration: Pursuant to the Supreme Court's decision in Green Tree Financial Corp.- Alabama v. Randolph, 531 U.S. 79 (2000), a dismissal without prejudice in favor of arbitration is an appealable "final decision" under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 16(a)(3), and  Green Tree  has overruled Second Circuit precedents that distinguish between "independent" and "embedded" actions for purposes of appealability.

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.

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