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

Articles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law

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After plaintiff was injured on the deck of a ship, he filed suit against the United States, the ship's owner, for negligence under the Jones Act and unseaworthiness under general maritime law. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff, holding that no summary-judgment evidence, however it might have been developed, reached the fact of whether plaintiff slipped on grease. Furthermore, plaintiff's claim of unseaworthiness likewise failed. View "Jones v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit denied Wood Group's petition for review of the Board's conclusion that Wood Group's employee satisfied the situs and status requirements for coverage under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. In this case, the employee was injured while unloading a vessel on a platform customarily used for that task. The court held that the Board correctly applied the plain language of the Act and affirmed its conclusion that the employee met the situs requirement. Furthermore, because the employee's injury occurred when he was loading/unloading a vessel, and because he regularly loaded/unloaded vessels, the status requirement was satisfied. View "Wood Group Production Services v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury Jones Act case, the Fifth Circuit held that the district court did not err by failing to act on an allegation that defendant provoked plaintiff's attorney to withdraw. In this case, all evidence in the record indicated that the attorney made a showing of good cause and provided reasonable notice to his client; the district court took procedural care in resolving the withdrawal motion; and plaintiff's claims to the contrary failed. However, the court held that the district court erroneously granted summary judgment to defendant because plaintiff lacked expert medical evidence of causation. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Gowdy v. Marine Spill Response Corp." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in this maritime case involving an allision, holding that the owner of the stationary, "innocent" vessel does not have to be reimbursed for the medical expenses of an employee who fraudulently claimed his preexisting injuries had resulted from the allision. In this case, because the employee's back condition did not result from the allision, Enterprise Marine did nothing that caused or contributed to a need for maintenance and cure for that particular medical problem. Therefore, Enterprise Marine did not owe reimbursement for the back surgery. Furthermore, Enterprise Marine did not have a contractual obligation to reimburse where an agreement between the parties did not cover a situation in which it later became clear that the employee's claims were fraudulent. View "4-K Marine, LLC v. Enterprise Marine Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the vessel owner in an action alleging that the vessel owner breached its duties under the Jones Act to provide plaintiff with prompt and adequate medical care after he suffered a stroke while working aboard the vessel. The court held that plaintiff failed to show that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the vessel owner acted negligently by calling 911. Furthermore, there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether the vessel owner was vicariously liable for the Teche Regional Medical Center physicians' alleged malpractice. View "Randle v. Crosby Tugs, LLC" on Justia Law

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After an underwater sonar device (towfish) used by Tesla struck the mooring line of an offshore drilling rig owned by Shell, Shell filed suit against Tesla and International, the company who chartered a vessel for Tesla to pull the towfish, seeking damages arising from the accident. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Shell and apportioned 75% of the liability to Tesla and 25% to International. Tesla and International appealed, and while the appeal was pending, Tesla and Shell entered into a settlement agreement. The district court subsequently determined that Tesla was entitled to contribution from International toward the settlement amount. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment holding that International's vessel was a towing vessel and subject to towing regulations. The court also affirmed the jury's allocation of fault and the district court's calculation of the contribution owed by International. View "Shell Offshore, Inc. v. Tesla Offshore, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment determination that Nature's Way, as the owner of a tugboat, was also "operating" an oil barge that the tugboat was moving at the time of a collision, as the term was used in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA). The court held that the ordinary and natural meaning of "operating" under the statute would apply to the exclusive navigational control that Nature's Way exercised over the barge at the time of the collision. Therefore, the National Pollution Funds Center violated the Administrative Procedures Act by determining that Nature's Way was an operator of the barge and thus denying reimbursement on the grounds that its liability should be limited by the tonnage of the tugboat and not the tonnage of the barges. View "United States v. Nature's Way Marine, LLC" on Justia Law

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After a marine accident that resulted in damages estimated to exceed $60 million, Valero, Shell and Motiva asked the court to resolve whether the excess insurers of one of the involved vessels may limit their liability to that of the insured vessel. The district court held that the Protection and Indemnity policy covering the vessel has a Crown Zellerbach clause thereby permitting the excess insurers to limit their liability to that of the insured vessel. The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal based on lack of appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(3), holding that the district court's Order and Reasons failed to determine the rights and liabilities of the parties. The court found no compelling reason to distinguish between a district court's determination of a contractual entitlement rather than statutory entitlement to limit liability. The court joined the Eleventh Circuit in holding that neither decision was reviewable on appeal under section 1292(a)(3). View "SCF Waxler Marine, LLC v. Aris T M/V" on Justia Law

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A Himalaya Clause that protects downstream carriers from suit by a cargo owner does not, in and of itself, limit the cargo owner's ability to receive the recovery to which it is entitled. After Royal SMIT's transformers were damaged during shipment from the Netherlands to Louisiana, Royal SMIT and its insurers filed suit against the carriers with whom the intermediary had contracted. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the carriers, holding that the through bill of lading’s Himalaya Clause protected downstream carriers from being sued by Royal. The court rejected Royal's claims that there was a material issue of fact as to whether the parties agreed to be bound by the Himalaya Clause and held that Royal failed to articulate a basis for overriding the clear terms of the through bill of lading. View "Royal SMIT Transformers BV v. Onego Shipping & Chartering, BV" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Carrizo in an action stemming from a contract to plug and abandon oil wells. In the underlying action, a Crescent employee was severely injured. Crescent and its insurers denied that indemnity was owed despite the contractual language, and argued that Louisiana’s Oilfield Anti-Indemnity Act applied. The court held that the contract between Crescent and Carrizo was a maritime contract, because the contract was to facilitate the drilling or production of oil and gas on navigable waters, and the contract anticipated the constant and substantial use of multiple vessels. Therefore, federal law was applicable in this case and the Louisiana Oilfield Anti-Indemnity Act was inapplicable. View "In re: Crescent Energy Service" on Justia Law