Articles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law

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GIC contracted with Freightplus to arrange for transport of a tugboat to Nigeria. Freightplus contracted with Yacht Path, who in turn contracted with IMC, as the vessel-operating common carrier. GIC filed suit against Freightplus when the tugboat did not discharge at the correct port, and Freightplus filed a third-party action against IMC. The court held that the non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC) and the vessel-operating common carrier (VOCC) relationship may give rise to a claim for maritime tort indemnity to the extent articulated in this case. Because the district court correctly determined that Freightplus was operating as an NVOCC and because its conclusion that IMC was negligent was not clearly erroneous, the court upheld its determination that IMC was liable to Freightplus. The court agreed with the district court's determination that Freightplus was not entitled to recover attorneys' fees from IMC. Because Freightplus has not demonstrated that IMC intended to release it from liability for the unpaid freight, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in this regard. Finally, the district court erred in barring IMC from proceeding against the tugboat in rem. Accordingly, the court reversed as to this issue and affirmed in all other respects. View "Gic Services, LLC. v. Freightplus USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involved an allision causing significant damage to a submerged moor line for a mobile offshore drilling unit used by Shell. Tesla, an offshore survey company, contracted with International to provide and operate the tow vessel. On appeal, International and Tesla challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing their indemnity and insurance claims. The Fifth Circuit held that a warning to Tesla's party chief that the tow vessel was moving too close to the moor line was a gratuitous act that had no effect on the outcome of the litigation. The court also held that none of the insurance policies were in the record nor was there any other evidence from which the policy language could be definitively discerned. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment as to Tesla's and International's insurance claims and remanded. View "International Marine, LLC v. Integrity Fisheries, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Offshore under the Jones Act, alleging maritime claims for negligence and unseaworthiness arising out of an alleged injury he suffered. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor Offshore and remanded for reconsideration in light of the current Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, including whether the particular material to which objection was lodged can or cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible at trial. In this case, the district court relied on a prior version of Rule 56 and cases thereunder to discount the signed but unsworn report of Captain James P. Jamison. View "Lee v. Offshore Logistical & Transport" on Justia Law

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The Oil Pollution Act (OPA), as confirmed by the Act's legislative history, grants to an OPA Responsible Party the right to receive contribution from other entities who were partially at fault for a discharge of oil. Specifically, a Responsible Party may recover from a jointly liable third party any damages it paid to claimants, including those arising out of purely economic losses. In a suit arising from a collision of two barges, the district court found both Settoon and Marquette Transportation were negligent. The Fifth Circuit held that Settoon could receive contribution from Marquette for its payment of purely economic damages, i.e., for the cleanup costs. The court also held that the district court's apportionment of fault was not clearly erroneous. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In re: Settoon Towing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against the Government under the third-party liability provision of the Longshore and Harborworkers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), 33 U.S.C. 905(b), after plaintiff was injured while aboard a public vessel owned by the Government and operated by its agents. Plaintiff was inspecting the vessel in connection with his employer's bidding on repair work. The district court concluded that, because the Government's negligent failure to safely illumine the stairwell was the factual and legal cause of plaintiff's accidental fall and its disabling consequences, the Government was fully liable for his resulting harm and disability, even though his preexisting conditions made the consequences of the Government's negligence more severe than they would have been for an ordinary victim. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not apply the wrong legal standard in this case with regard to plaintiff's preexisting medical conditions; the district court did not err in holding that the accident was the sole cause of plaintiff's damages; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by limiting the testimony of the Government's expert witness. View "Koch v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., against Defendants Galliano Marine Service and C-Innovation, seeking to recover unpaid wages for overtime worked during his employment at C-Innovation. Defendants run a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) business for offshore applications and employed plaintiff as an ROV Technician and ROV Supervisor. The district court granted summary judgment against plaintiff. The court concluded that the district court erred in granting defendant's motion for summary judgment because it has not been established as a matter of law that the seaman exemption applies. In this case, competing testimonial evidence regarding whether plaintiff was a master or subject to the authority, direction, and control of the master aboard a vessel precludes summary judgment. Furthermore, the district court must determine what proportion of plaintiff's time is spent on seaman's work. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Halle v. Galliano Marine Service, LLC" on Justia Law

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This consolidated case under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 883, and general maritime law, involved an accident on a barge in the navigable waterways of Louisiana. Defendant, the barge owner, appealed the district court's judgment for plaintiffs. The court held that evidence supported the district court's award to plaintiff McBride for pre-death fear and conscious pain and suffering, and the district court's award of damages for loss of past and future support was not clearly erroneous. The court also concluded that the district court's award of future cure until plaintiff Touchet reaches maximum medical improvement and for future medical expenses beyond Touchet's maximum medical improvement was not reversible error. Finally, the district court did not clearly err in finding that Touchet was permanently disabled and by awarding damages for lost earnings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "McBride v. Estis Well Service, LLC" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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