HomeCircuit Court Admiralty Cases2003 (September-Decemberl)
   The following are links to selected Circuit Court opinions concerning admiralty and maritime law issued during the period September through December, 2003.

Lincoln v. Reksten Management
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
December 29, 2003

Longshore and Harbor Workers' Act: Under Scindia Steamship, and the facts of the case, in order to avoid summary judgment, the plaintiff longshore worker must show that there was a latent defect in the deck, that the shipowner knew or should have known of the defect in the exercise of reasonable care, and that the shipowner breached its duty by failing to discover or warn the stevedore of the defect. The relevant evidence shows that the vessel might have been negligent in the maintenance, upkeep, and especially the inspection of the deck in question, so that, in the exercise of reasonable care, it might have discovered the defect or hole in the decking into which plaintiff fell, enabling it to warn the stevedore of the defect.  Summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claim was thus improper. Charter Parties: Plaintiff was not a third party beneficiary of the charter party between the vessel owner and charterer since it did not mention longshoremen’s safety or care. Thus, the charter party  did not provide plaintiff an alternative means of claiming against the vessel owner.

Avondale Inudstries v. Alario
Fifth Crcuit Court of Appeals
December 29. 2003

Longshore and Harbor Workers' Act: Section 28(a) makes it clear that the operative date for avoiding the potential shifting of attorney’s fees is thirty days after the  employer receives formal notice of the claim. It does not mention the term "evidence", let alone require that certain evidence be provided when a claim is filed. A claim requires only a writing disclosing an intention to assert a right of compensation.

Continental Insurance v. M/V Orsula
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals
December 24, 2003

Carriage of Goods/COGSA/Procedure (Venue): A forum-selection clause in the relevant bills of lading limited venue to "the United States District Court having admiralty jurisdiction at the USA port of loading or USA port of discharge, as the case may be, to the exclusion of any other Court or forum."  Since it was uncontested that the relevant shipments of steel were loaded in Belgium, and were discharged at Burns Harbo, Indiana, venue was improper in the Northern District of Illinois and the Complaint was thus properly dismissed. 

Collins v. NTSB
District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals
December 19, 2003

Collisions/Casualties/Coast Guard Regulation: On January 29,1999, Captain N. was serving as the pilot of the S/S Chelsea when it collided with the M/V Manzanillo in the Miami Harbor Channel. The Coast Guard suspended the Captain's license for 5 months since he failed to comply with COLREGS Rule 34(d), which requires a vessel in doubt of collision to give at least five short and rapid blasts on its whistle. The NTSB reversed, finding that Rule 34(d) does not require whistle blasts when there is certainty of collision. The Court of Appeals held otherwise, finding that the Coast Guard's interpretation of Rule 34(d) was controlling and that the NTSB should have upheld its view that the duty to sound the warning signal applies even when a pilot is certain that sufficient action is not being taken by the other vessel to avoid collision.

In re Needham
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
December 16, 2003

Oil Pollution/OPA 90: OPA imposes strict liability upon parties that discharge oil into “navigable waters,” a term defined in the statute to mean “the waters of the United States, including the territorial sea.” 33 U.S.C. § 2701(21). OPA permits the recovery of cleanup costs in two instances: (1) if oil spills into navigable-in-fact waters or (2) if oil spills into non-navigable waters (or wetlands) that are truly adjacent to an open body of navigable water. Here, the parties stipulated that oil spilled into Bayou Folse, which is adjacent to the Company Canal, an open body of navigable water. OPA thus applies to the spill  and the party that caused the spill is liable to the United States for the associated cleanup costs. 


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