Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law

By
This appeal stemmed from a dispute over a contract to perform flow-back services to improve the performance of an offshore natural-gas well when performance eventually required the use of a crane barge. At issue was the applicability of maritime or state law. The court agreed with the district court, applied the approach in Davis & Sons, Inc. v. Gulf Oil Corp., and concluded that the oral work order was the relevant contract and that it is a maritime contract. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Larry Doiron, Inc. v. Specialty Rental Tools & Supply" on Justia Law

By
Plaintiff filed a maritime tort action against Bozovic Marine for injuries arising out of plaintiff's being taken to a work site on a vessel operated by defendant, a third-party tortfeasor. Plaintiff suffered injuries to his back when the captain of the vessel failed to decelerate upon reaching the crest of an eight-to-ten foot wave. The district court concluded that Bozovic Marine was negligent for: failure to request that plaintiff go to the passenger area of the vessel; failure to stay apprised of the weather conditions; and erratic operation of the vessel. Therefore, the district court concluded that plaintiff was comparatively negligent for staying in the wheelhouse. Plaintiff received 10% liability and Bozovic Marine received 90%. The court concluded that the district court did not clearly err by assigning 90% of the liability to Bozovic Marine based on the trial record, including the captain's control over the vessel area. The court explained that the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. 901-950, medical-expense payments are collateral to a third-party tortfeasor only to the extent paid; in other words, under those circumstances, plaintiff may not recover for expenses billed, but not paid. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court erred in awarding the full amount billed. Finally, the court concluded that it was not clear error for the court to credit the vocational counselor’s expert testimony and award lost-wage damages until age 75. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "DePerrodil v. Bozovic Marine, Inc." on Justia Law

By
After Mark Barhanovich was killed in coastal waters south of Biloxi, Mississippi, Barhanovich’s estate filed claims against Bean. Mark died when the Suzuki outboard engine on his fishing boat struck an underwater dredge pipe, flipped into his boat, and struck him. Bean, responsible for dredging operations in the area, settled Barhanovich’s claims, and C.F. Bean, LLC pled guilty to one count of misconduct or neglect of ship officers in a criminal proceeding related to the same accident. While Barhanovich’s claims were pending, Bean filed a third-party complaint against SMC. After Barhanovich’s claims were settled, the district court excluded expert testimony put forth by Bean, and granted SMC’s motion for summary judgment against Bean. The court affirmed the exclusion of the expert's report; reversed the exclusion of the second expert report, notwithstanding its untimeliness; reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment because the district court ruled that Bean could not defeat summary judgment without expert testimony; and affirmed the district court's denial of Bean's motion to conduct additional testing on the motor. On remand, the court encouraged the district court to consider whether to reopen discovery, and to consider lesser sanctions for Bean’s untimeliness, such as costs and attorneys’ fees for SMC’s additional discovery. View "C.F. Bean, LLC v. Barhanovich" on Justia Law

By
Plaintiffs filed suit against Marquette after a towing vessel owned by Marquette allided with a private vessel owned by the Trust. The district court awarded damages and attorneys' fees against Marquette. The court concluded that the district court did not clearly err in finding that the cost of repairing the severely damaged private vessel exceeded its pre-casualty value and, therefore, the private vessel was a constructive total loss. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in refusing to allow expert testimony from Larry Strouse regarding the pre-casualty value of the private vessel where the testimony was admittedly cumulative and any error did not affect Marquette's substantial rights. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorneys’ fees as a sanction and by declining to make further downward adjustment to the fee award. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Moench v. M/V Salvation" on Justia Law

By
Petitioner worked as a marine carpenter and was injured while building a housing module designed for use on a tension leg offshore oil platform (TLP) named Big Foot. On appeal, petitioner challenges the Benefits Review Board's decision affirming the denial of benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. 901-950, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), 43 U.S.C. 1331-1356. Big Foot, like other TLPs, is a type of offshore oil platform used for deep water drilling; the parties concede that Big Foot was not built to regularly transport goods or people. The court agreed with the ALJ that petitioner was not covered by the LHWCA because he was not engaged in maritime employment as a shipbuilder, based on his determination that Big Foot is not a “vessel” under the LHWCA. The court also concluded that, based on the specific facts of petitioner's employment, his injury does not satisfy the substantial nexus test and is not covered under the LHWCA as extended by the OCSLA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Baker v. DOWCP" on Justia Law

By
Plaintiff filed suit against Chevron and Edison in Texas state court after he was captured by pirates and tortured. Chevron removed to federal court and the district court subsequently granted Chevron's motion for summary judgment, denying plaintiff's motion for leave to amend. The court vacated and remanded, concluding that the notice plaintiff gave of his intent to amend his complaint was sufficient under circuit precedent, and plaintiff's amended claims would not have been futile. View "Thomas v. Chevron" on Justia Law

By
WFS Singapore filed suit attempting to recover a debt arising from the supply of fuel oil bunkers in Singapore to a Panamanian-flag vessel, which is beneficially owned by a United States company, operated and managed by a United States company, and which was chartered by a German company. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion and substantially with its reasoning. The district court, on summary judgment, applied Singapore law to the formation of the fuel sales contract, enforced the parties’ choice of law as the “General Maritime law of the United States,” and concluded that the vessel lien under the Federal Maritime Lien Act, 42 U.S.C. 31341 and 31342, was enforceable. View "World Fuel Serv. Singapore PTE v. Bulk Juliana MV" on Justia Law

By
WFS Singapore filed suit attempting to recover a debt arising from the supply of fuel oil bunkers in Singapore to a Panamanian-flag vessel, which is beneficially owned by a United States company, operated and managed by a United States company, and which was chartered by a German company. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion and substantially with its reasoning. The district court, on summary judgment, applied Singapore law to the formation of the fuel sales contract, enforced the parties’ choice of law as the “General Maritime law of the United States,” and concluded that the vessel lien under the Federal Maritime Lien Act, 42 U.S.C. 31341 and 31342, was enforceable. View "World Fuel Serv. Singapore PTE v. Bulk Juliana MV" on Justia Law

By
Malin filed suit against OSA for the balance of its unpaid invoices for work, services, materials, and supplies that it had provided to OSA at the request of Con-Dive. The court affirmed the district court's denial of OSA's motion to vacate the attachment, concluding that, under Texas law, title to the bunkers at issue passed to OSA on delivery. OSA held title to the bunkers at the time of Malin's attachment, and title to property unquestionably suffices as an attachable interest under Supplemental Admiralty Rule B. Therefore, the district court had personal jurisdiction over OSA by virtue of the attachment of the bunkers on the vessel that it had chartered. The court affirmed the district court’s determination that no material issues of fact exist as to whether OSA received and ratified the invoices, including their interest and attorneys fees provisions. Thus, the court concluded that the district court committed no error in granting summary judgment for Malin. The court affirmed the judgment. View "Malin Int'l Ship Repair v. Oceanografia, S.A. de C.V." on Justia Law

By
Defendant appealed his conviction for failing to maintain an oil record book aboard a foreign-flagged merchant sea vessel, in violation of 33 U.S.C. 1908(a) and 33 C.F.R. 151.25. The district court denied defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal under Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The court reversed, concluding that the plain language of 33 C.F.R. 151.25 states that only the “master or other person having charge of the ship” has a duty to maintain the record book. The government concedes that defendant was not the “master or other person having charge” of the vessel at issue. The court vacated the conviction and remanded for entry of acquittal. View "United States v. Fafalios" on Justia Law