Articles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law

by
Plaintiff, a marine salvor, filed this action in rem against the Blacksheep, seeking a salvage award for services he provided to the yacht. The district court entered judgment against plaintiff, finding that he failed to show that his services were necessary to the rescue of the Blacksheep. The court concluded, however, that a claim for a salvage award does not require such a showing. In this case, the district court's findings and some facts from the record could support the conclusion that plaintiff's action contributed to saving the Blacksheep where he deployed his high-capacity dewatering pump; dove below the ship where he successfully pushed the propeller shaft twelve inches closer to its intended position; and applied packing material to prevent further flooding. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Girard v. M/V "Blacksheep"" on Justia Law

by
Defendants Wilchcombe, Rolle, and Beauplaint appealed their convictions for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute and possessing with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana while on board a vessel subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Rolle also appeals his conviction for failing to obey a lawful order to heave to his vessel of which he was the master, operator, and person in charge. The court rejected Wilchcombe’s and Rolle’s arguments that the court's interpretation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA), 46 U.S.C. 70503(a) and (b), and 70506(a), violates due process; the statement of no objection (SNO) in this case was sufficient to inform the United States that the Bahamian Government consented to the United States’ exercise of jurisdiction over Rolle’s vessel; while the evidence presented at trial suggests that the Coast Guard may have incorrectly informed the Bahamian Government about the registration documents provided by Rolle to the Coast Guard, there are multiple reasons why this inconsistency does not lead the court to fault the district court’s decision to exercise jurisdiction over defendants; the evidence is sufficient to sustain Wilchcombe’s convictions for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute and possessing with intent to distribute under the MDLEA; the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to grant a mistrial as to Beauplant and Rolle; the district court properly denied Beauplant's motion to dismiss; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by permitting a DEA agent to testify regarding Beauplant's prior 2010 arrest. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Wilchcombe" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a United States citizen, worked as the lead trumpeter on a passenger Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The ship is a Bahamian flagged vessel with a home port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Royal Caribbean, the operator of the vessel, is a Liberian corporation with its principal place of business in Florida. After plaintiff became ill while working for Royal Caribbean, he filed suit alleging unseaworthiness, negligence, negligence under the Jones Act, maintenance and cure, and seaman’s wages and penalties. Royal Caribbean moved to compel arbitration, and the district court granted the motion. This appeal presents an issue of first impression: whether a seaman’s work in international waters on a cruise ship that calls on foreign ports constitutes “performance . . . abroad” under the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, 9 U.S.C. 202. The Convention makes enforceable an arbitration agreement between United States citizens if their contractual relationship “envisages performance . . . abroad.” The court affirmed the order compelling arbitration of the dispute because a seaman works abroad when traveling in international waters to or from a foreign state. View "Alberts v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against the County after he suffered injuries while aboard a vessel traveling in the Coral Park Canal, a drainage canal in the County. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. At issue is whether a canal is navigable for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. 1333, if an artificial obstruction prevents vessels from using the canal to conduct interstate commerce. Because the Coral Park Canal cannot support interstate commerce, the court concluded that it cannot satisfy the location requirement of admiralty jurisdiction. The court concluded that extending jurisdiction to waters incapable of commercial activity serves no purpose of admiralty jurisdiction. Therefore, the court agreed with the district court that plaintiff's injuries did not occur on navigable waters for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction because an artificial obstruction prevents vessels from traveling from the Coral Park Canal to places outside of Florida. View "Tundidor v. Miami-Dade County" on Justia Law

by
Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to distribute cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, in violation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA), 46 U.S.C. 70503(a)(1), 70506(b). The court rejected the government's contention that it should review only for plain error where the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law that the court reviews de novo even when it is raised for the first time on appeal. In this case, the district court did not expressly make any factual findings with respect to its jurisdiction. In the plea agreement, defendant does not admit to facts that give rise to jurisdiction. The agreement does not state, for example, that defendant and his coconspirators failed to “make a claim of nationality” upon request when United States officials apprehended them. Instead, it asserts that defendant was on a vessel subject to the United States’ jurisdiction. The court concluded that a limited remand is the proper course of action in this case. Therefore, the court remanded the case to the district court for the limited purpose of determining whether subject matter jurisdiction exists. View "United States v. Gonzalez Iguaran" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against the City and its officers under 42 U.S.C.1983, federal maritime law, and state law, alleging that defendants seized his sailboat and destroyed it without justification and without notice. The district court dismissed plaintiff's claims. The court concluded that the district court should not have placed a “heightened pleading” burden on plaintiff for his section 1983 claims. The court also concluded that the district court erred to the extent that it dismissed the federal constitutional claims in Counts I, II, and V, and the maritime claims in Counts III and IV, based on the contents of the incident reports. On remand, the court instructed the district court to assess the sufficiency of the procedural due process, search and seizure, and takings claims without reliance on the disputed portions of the incident reports. The court further instructed that the district court should assume that the sailboat was not derelict, and that plaintiff was never given adequate notice that it was derelict and subject to removal and destruction. The court further concluded that the district court erred with respect to the procedural due process claim in Count I and the Fourth Amendment claim in Count II. In this case, all plaintiff needed to do to establish municipal liability was allege a policy, practice, or custom of the City which caused the seizure and destruction of his sailboat, which he did. Further, defendants cannot point to any post-Leatherman v. Tarrant Cnty. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit Supreme Court or circuit cases - and the court has not been able to locate any - holding that a complaint asserting a section 1983 municipal liability claim must, as a Rule 8(a) pleading matter, always specifically identify the municipality’s final policymaker by name. Finally, plaintiff also sufficiently stated a claim for an unconstitutional seizure under the Fourth Amendment. However, the court agreed with the district court that plaintiff failed to state a substantive due process claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Hoefling, Jr. v. City of Miami" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this appeal was an attachment of property made pursuant to Supplemental Admiralty Rule B. This appeal had a complicated background, involving multiple lawsuits in federal district courts, Florida state court, and a Spanish bankruptcy court. The common denominator of these suits was Quail Cruises Ship Management, from which multiple parties, including participants in this appeal, have tried to collect money that they believed Quail owed them. The money at issue arose from the legal settlement of a dispute over the purchase of a cruise ship featured on ABC Television Network’s long-running series, The Love Boat. The plaintiff-appellant advanced a novel interpretation of Rule B. The district court was unpersuaded, as was the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s order vacating the attachment. View "World Wide Supply OU v. Quail Cruises Ship Management, et al" on Justia Law

by
Defendant-appellant J. Brian O'Neill purchased the Bryemere, a sport-fishing vessel, in 2006. As he negotiated the Bryemere’s price, O’Neill incorporated a limited-liability company in the state of Rhode Island, Carolina Acquisition, LLC to take ownership of the vessel. O’Neill then applied for a preferred ship mortgage with Bank of America, N.A. (BOA) to fund the Bryemere’s cost. O’Neill signed the mortgage in his capacity as managing member of Carolina, using the ship as collateral. As a condition of the loan, BOA required proof of insurance for the Bryemere, and requested that the insurance policy contain a mortgage clause that would protect BOA’s interests as a mortgagee in the event the underlying insurance policy was found void. O’Neill’s insurance broker, Willis of Pennsylvania, Inc., sought an insurance quote for the Bryemere from AIG Centennial Insurance Company. Susan Bonner, an underwriter, handled the application process on behalf of AIG. Sharon King, a broker, was assigned to O’Neill’s case on behalf of Willis. Instead of working directly with King, O’Neill delegated the task of obtaining insurance for the Bryemere to his executive secretary, Desiree Foulds. Instead of explaining the insurance-application process to Foulds, King forwarded the application to Foulds without comment and returned the application Foulds had completed to Bonner without reviewing it for accuracy or completeness. Foulds made three mistakes on the application that were relevant to this appeal: (1) she listed O’Neill as the owner of the vessel instead of Carolina; (2) in response to a question about whether the owner or captain had ever suffered any “losses,” she disclosed one prior loss in 2003, when O’Neill lost a boat due to fire, when in fact (by his own admission at trial) O’Neill had suffered two additional losses that went undisclosed: propeller damage to his Ocean yacht and a blown engine on his sailing vessel; and (3) Foulds listed the Bryemere’s purchase price as $2.35 million, when the closing statement reflected a purchase price of $2.125 million. AIG issued the final policy. Following the Bryemere’s purchase, O’Neill invested $225,000 to pay for repairs recommended for the ship. During the voyage from Florida to Rhode Island, the crew “noticed considerable flexing in the vessel’s hull.” Upon arrival in Rhode Island, several marine experts inspected the Bryemere and concluded that it suffered from a number of structural defects rendering the vessel, in the words of one marine surveyor, “un-seaworthy, dangerous and unsafe for any use.” O’Neill then submitted a claim to AIG for coverage under his insurance policy. In response, AIG filed a declaratory judgment action with the federal district court in Florida seeking affirmation that the insurance policy was void ab initio as to both O’Neill and BOA. After an eight-day bench trial, the District Court issued an order finding that neither O’Neill nor BOA could recover under the policy. As to O’Neill, the District Court held that the misrepresentations regarding O’Neill’s prior loss history and the Bryemere’s purchase price rendered the policy void ab initio under the maritime doctrine of uberrimae fidei. As to BOA, the District Court held, among other things, that the named insured on the policy, O’Neill, was not the mortgagor on the loan and that BOA had no rights under the standard mortgage clause as a result. O’Neill and BOA appealed. But finding no reversible error, however, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court. View "AIG Centennial Insurance Co. v. O'Neill" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Royal Caribbean for maritime negligence after her elderly father fell and hit his head while on one of Royal Caribbean's cruise vessels. Plaintiff's father died a week after the injury. Plaintiff alleged that Royal Caribbean is vicariously liable for the negligence of two of its employees, the onboard nurse and doctor, under an actual agency or apparent agency theory. The court concluded that the allegations in plaintiff's complaint plausibly support holding Royal Caribbean vicariously liable for the medical negligence of its onboard nurse and doctor. The court declined to adopt the Barbetta rule, which immunizes a shipowner from respondent superior liability whenever a ship's employees render negligent medical care to its passengers. The court found that the complaint in this cause plausibly establishes a claim against Royal Caribbean under the doctrine of actual agency, as well as the principles of apparent agency. Because plaintiff adequately pled all the elements of both actual and apparent agency, the court held that plaintiff may press her claims under either or both theories. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Franza v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit under general maritime law against their maritime employment agencies, asserting a claim for wages. The district court granted defendants summary judgment on plaintiffs' claims and plaintiffs appealed. After reviewing the record, reading the parties' briefs, and hearing oral argument, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court for the reasons set out in its two well-reasoned and well-written orders, which were filed on November 4, 2013, and November 7, 2013. The court adopted these orders as the court's opinion with the same effect as if the court had written it. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.View "Jurich, et al. v. Compass Marine, Inc." on Justia Law