Articles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime 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

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Plaintiffs were two Yemeni-born Muslim seamen who were United States citizens. Their civil rights action concerned a tanker ship owned by the United States Maritime Administration but operated by a private company under a contract. The first seaman alleged that the human resources director of the companying operating the ship ordered that he be fired because of his national origin. The second seaman alleged that he was not hired to work aboard the ship because of his religion and national origin. Both plaintiffs named the human resources director as a defendant but not the United States. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that because Plaintiffs’ claims both involved a contract for employment or potential employment aboard a public vessel of the United States and had a sufficient maritime connection, they were required to bring those claims against the United States. View "Ali v. Rogers" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, the crew of an Ecuadorian fishing boat, filed suit against the United States, alleging that the United States harmed plaintiffs and their property when the Coast Guard boarded the boat in search of drugs. The court held that, on the evidence submitted by the parties, reciprocity with Ecuador existed; the discretionary function exception applied generally to plaintiffs' claims because most of the actions by the Coast Guard were discretionary; the government could have violated its non-discretionary policy of paying damages to the owner of the boat; and to the extent that plaintiffs could establish that the United States violated that mandatory obligation, sovereign immunity did not bar this action. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Tobar v. United States" on Justia Law

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Clevo appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Hecny. Clevo, a Taiwan-based manufacturer of computer parts and accessories, and Amazon, a Brazilian entity, agreed that Clevo would manufacture and sell, and Amazon would buy, millions of dollars' worth of Clevo computer parts. Under Clevo and Amazon's negotiated terms, the Hecny Group was designated to handle all of the contract shipments. More than a year after the initial misdelivery to Amazon, Clevo sued numerous Hecny Group entities for the unpaid remainder of the goods' purchase price. The court concluded that the Guarantee was initially effective to place Clevo and Hecny Transportation in direct contractual privity, without any contractually-created statute of limitations. But that initial relationship was modified when the Bills of Lading issued. By operation of the Himalaya Clause, the benefit of the one-year statue of limitations in the Bills of Lading extended beyond Hecny Shipping to Hecny Transportation as well. Because Hecny Transportation had asserted that provision in defense to suit, Clevo's claims were time-barred. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Clevo Co. v. Hecny Transp., Inc." on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from Greenpeace's public campaign to stop Shell from driling in the Arctic. Greenpeace appealed the district court's grant of Shell's motion for a preliminary injunction, which prohibited Greenpeace from coming within a specified distance of vessels involved in Shell's Arctic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) exploration and from committing various unlawful and tortious acts against those vessels. The court affirmed the judgment, concluding that the action presented a justiciable case or controversy, that the district court had jurisdiction to issue its order, and that it did not abuse its discretion in doing so. View "Shell Offshore, Inc., et al v. Greenpeace, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea for conspiracy to carry a concealed dangerous weapon on an aircraft, in violation of 49 U.S.C. 46505(e), and for aiding and abetting the carrying of a concealed dangerous weapon on an aircraft, a violation of 18 U.S.C. 2 and 49 U.S.C. 46505(b)(1). At issue was whether 49 U.S.C. 46505 was unconstitutionally vague as applied to defendant, an airport employee, who sneaks a pocketknife past a security checkpoint and then gives it to a passenger who takes it aboard an airplane. The court concluded that 49 U.S.C. 46505 gave adequate notice to defendant that a pocketknife with a blade of slightly less than two-and-a-half inches was prohibited aboard an aircraft. Accordingly, the court held that the statute was not constitutionally vague as applied and affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Harris" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant, seeking indemnity and/or contribution based on the damage defendant allegedly caused through gross negligence in removing plaintiff's vessel from a coral reef. At issue was whether the district court properly denied defendant's motion to compel arbitration of the dispute under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq., where defendant alleged that the district court erred in refusing to apply English arbitrability law. The court held that based on the Supreme Court's reasoning in First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, courts should apply non-federal arbitrability law only if there was clear and unmistakable evidence that the parties intended to apply such non-federal law. Because there was no clear and unmistakable evidence in this case, federal arbitrability law applied. Under federal arbitrability law, the court's decisions in Mediterranean Enterprises, Inc. v. Ssangyong Construction Co. and Tracer Research Corp. v. National Environmental Services, Co., mandated a narrow interpretation of a clause providing for arbitration of all disputes "arising under" an agreement. Under this narrow interpretation, the present dispute was not arbitrable. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment.

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Federal Insurance Company (FIC) sued for damage to property destroyed during the inland leg of international intermodal carriage where FIC was the subrogee of the shipper which contracted with an ocean carrier, APL Co. Ptc. Ltd. (APL), to ship goods from Singapore to Alabama. The district court ruled that a covenant not to sue in the through bill of lading required FIC to sue the carrier, APL, rather than the subcontractor. At issue was what legal regime applied to the shipment's inland leg under the through bill of lading and whether the applicable legal regime prohibited the covenant not to sue. The court held that the district court did not err by enforcing the covenant not to sue and granting summary judgment to the subcontractor where the requirements that FIC sue APL directly was valid under the Hague Rules and the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA), 46 U.S.C. 30701.