Articles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of a seaman's claims in admiralty against a vessel in rem. The panel held that the district court erred by denying the seaman's maintenance requests in full, staying the action, and dismissing the vessel; the district court obtained jurisdiction over the vessel when the seaman filed a verified complaint and defendants appeared generally and litigated without contesting in rem jurisdiction; the district court did not lose in rem jurisdiction while the vessel remained in its constructive custody; the district court's control over the vessel, once obtained, was exclusive; and the automatic bankruptcy stay did not affect the seaman's lien against the vessel and the bankruptcy court had no authority to dispose of the lien through the application of bankruptcy law. The court explained that when, as in this case, a seaman establishes his entitlement to maintenance and provides some evidence of his actual living expenses, the burden shifts to the vessel's owner to produce evidence that the seaman's actual costs were unreasonable. The panel issued a writ of mandamus to the district court to award the seaman maintenance for his undisputed actual and reasonable expenses subject to a potential increase after trial. View "Barnes v. Sea Hawaii Rafting, LLC" on Justia Law

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Punitive damages are awardable to seamen for their own injuries in general maritime unseaworthiness actions. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to strike a prayer for punitive damages. The panel held that Miles v. Apex Marine Corp., 498 U.S. 19 (1990), did not implicitly overrule the holding of Evich v. Morris, 819 F.2d 256 (9th Cir. 1987). Under Miller v. Gammie, 335 F.3d 889 (9th Cir. 2003), Evich remains good law. Under Atlantic Sounding Co. v. Townsend, 557 U.S. 404 (2009), the panel reached the same conclusion Evich did, even if the panel were not bound by Evich. View "Batterton v. Dutra Group" on Justia Law

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Punitive damages are awardable to seamen for their own injuries in general maritime unseaworthiness actions. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to strike a prayer for punitive damages. The panel held that Miles v. Apex Marine Corp., 498 U.S. 19 (1990), did not implicitly overrule the holding of Evich v. Morris, 819 F.2d 256 (9th Cir. 1987). Under Miller v. Gammie, 335 F.3d 889 (9th Cir. 2003), Evich remains good law. Under Atlantic Sounding Co. v. Townsend, 557 U.S. 404 (2009), the panel reached the same conclusion Evich did, even if the panel were not bound by Evich. View "Batterton v. Dutra Group" on Justia Law

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An arbitration provision in a maritime insurance policy is enforceable despite law in the forum state assertedly precluding its application. This case concerned the scope of insurance coverage Galilea bought for its yacht. The Ninth Circuit held that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1-16, applied to the insurance policy but not the insurance application. In this case, the insurance application was not a contract, but the insurance policy was a contract subject to the FAA because the FAA constituted established federal maritime law for maritime transactions; federal maritime law was not precluded by Montana law under the McCarran-Ferguson Act, 15 U.S.C. 1012; and federal maritime law was not precluded by Montana law under M/S Bremen v. Zapata Off-Shore Co., 407 U.S. 1 (1972). The panel also held that the parties have delegated arbitrability issues to an arbitrator. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's order finding the policy's arbitration clause enforceable and affirmed the district court's order granting the Underwriters' motion to compel arbitration as to certain causes of action. The panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Galilea, LLC v. AGCS Marine Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendant in a third party contribution and indemnification action regarding fire damage to a tugboat. In McDermott, Inc. v. AmClyde, 511 U.S. 202 (1994), the Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether non-settling defendants in admiralty cases may seek contribution from a settling defendant. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling because Corvus settled with Foss and no fact-finder made a determination of fault, Foss explicitly released all claims against Corvus related to AKA's wrongdoing, and allowing Corvus’s indemnity action would dissuade settlement, contrary to the Supreme Court's rationale in AmClyde. View "Corvus Energy Ltd. v. 1169997 Ontario, Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards does not allow nonsignatories or non-parties to compel arbitration. The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) expressly exempted from its scope any contracts of employment of seamen. In this maritime action, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion to compel arbitration arising from the death of a seaman in the sinking of a fishing vessel. Dongwon moved to compel arbitration based on an employment agreement between the seaman and the vessel's owner, Majestic. The panel held that Dongwon was neither a signatory nor a party to the employment agreement. The panel also held that Dongwan could not compel arbitration on grounds other than the Convention Treaty, such as the FAA. View "Yang v. Dongwon Industries, Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards does not allow nonsignatories or non-parties to compel arbitration. The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) expressly exempted from its scope any contracts of employment of seamen. In this maritime action, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion to compel arbitration arising from the death of a seaman in the sinking of a fishing vessel. Dongwon moved to compel arbitration based on an employment agreement between the seaman and the vessel's owner, Majestic. The panel held that Dongwon was neither a signatory nor a party to the employment agreement. The panel also held that Dongwan could not compel arbitration on grounds other than the Convention Treaty, such as the FAA. View "Yang v. Dongwon Industries, Ltd." on Justia Law

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After James McIndoe died from complications related to mesothelioma, McIndoe's legal heirs filed suit against defendants, arguing that McIndoe’s exposure to asbestos-containing materials aboard their ships contributed to his death. The district court granted defendants' motions for summary judgment. The court agreed with the district court that McIndoe’s heirs cannot sustain an action for strict products liability premised upon the notion that the warships in question are themselves “products” under maritime law. The court also concluded that, although plaintiffs have established that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether McIndoe was exposed to asbestos-containing materials originally installed upon such ships, plaintiffs have established no genuine issue of fact regarding whether any such exposure was a substantial factor in McIndoe’s injuries. Therefore, plaintiffs cannot prevail on their general negligence claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "McIndoe v. Huntington Ingalls Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, individuals and a corporation who reside in Hawaii, filed suit alleging that the Jones Act's cabotage provisions, 46 U.S.C. 12112(a)(2)(A) and 55102(b)(1), which prohibit foreign competition in the domestic shipping market, impair interstate trade between Hawaii and the rest of the United States to such an extent that they violate the Constitution. The district court dismissed the action with prejudice. The court concluded that plaintiffs have alleged more than generalized grievances and have demonstrated an “injury in fact,” but have not met their burden to show causation or redressability, the other two elements of Article III standing. The court further concluded that although plaintiffs, could establish standing if they amended their complaint, any amendment would be futile because plaintiffs’ challenge to the Jones Act would fail on the merits. In this case, an amended complaint would be subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim because the enactment of the Jones Act was not beyond the authority assigned to Congress under the Commerce Clause. The court rejected plaintiffs' Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment claim, and held that the district court did not violate plaintiffs' procedural due process right by ruling on the government's motion to dismiss without an oral hearing. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Novak v. United States" on Justia Law

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CHMM, owner of a luxury yacht, filed suit against Freeman, manufacturer of a "weathertight" door for installation on the yacht, alleging five tort claims arising out of the door's alleged malfunction. The court applied the rule in Saratoga Fishing Co. v. J.M. Martinac & Co., concluding that where the manufacturer of a product had no responsibility for manufacturing or assembling items that the user adds to the product, the user-added items are considered “other property” for purposes of the economic loss doctrine. In this case, the economic loss doctrine does not bar CHMM from suing in tort for damage to the Interior Outfit caused by the allegedly defective Freeman door. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded. View "CHMM v. Freeman Marine Equip." on Justia Law