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Federal Circuits' & State Decisions | Jones Act Issues, Questions and Answers | Maritime Case Law


Floyd Badeaux v. Magnolia Fleet, L.L.C., et al.
Date Decided: Feb 25th, 2011
Decided By: Louisiana Eastern District Court (Federal)
Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
Citation: 2011 WL 765781

This case arose out of injuries Floyd Badeaux ("Badeaux") allegedly sustained when he fell between a deck barge and the M/V LOCKMASTER ("the Vessel") while attempting to board the Vessel. Badeaux has an unlimited Master's license with numerous years of experience as a captain on the Mississippi River.

Badeaux brought claims against his employer, Magnolia Fleet, L.L.C. under the general maritime law. Badeaux alleges as a result of his fall, he suffered injuries to his back, neck, spine, ribs, arm and mind and seeks maintenance and cure and general damages in the amount of $4,000,000.

The parties consented to a bench trial before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The parties introduced depositions of doctors, Miranne and Cenac, and nurses, Zeringue and Simpson to establish the amount and extent of Magnolia's obligation to provide maintenance and cure.  

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In the Matter of the Complaint of Pride Offshore, Inc.
Date Decided: Feb 2nd, 2011
Decided By: Texas Southern District Court (Federal)
Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
Citation: 766 F.Supp.2d 797

This case arose out of damage to an underwater gas pipeline owned by Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. ("TGPC") allegedly caused when a 250-foot jack-up rig owned by Pride Offshore, Inc. ("Pride") slipped its moorings during Hurricane Ike and settled on top of the pipeline. Century Exploration New Orleans, Inc. ("Century") is an operator of oil and gas production facilities on the outer continental shelf who had a contract with TGPC to transport oil and gas via the pipeline to onshore facilities.

Pride filed a complaint in exoneration or alternatively for limitation of liability in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, pursuant to the Shipowners' Limitation of Liability Act.

Century filed a claim in the limitation proceeding seeking $21 million in economic-loss damages for interference with its operations. Century alleged that Pride was negligent in placing an unseaworthy rig on the sea floor, and that the resulting damage to the pipeline caused Century to shut down its production operations and sustain economic losses.

In response, Pride filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing Century could not succeed on its claim pursuant to the Robins Dry Dock Rule. Century responded with an amended claim that further alleged Pride acted recklessly and intentionally. Century also filed a Motion to Amend Complaint.

Before the Court is Pride's Motion for Summary Judgment and Century's Motion to Amend Complaint.

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Luis Beltran Flores v. Predco Services Corp., et al.
Date Decided: Mar 11th, 2011
Decided By: New Jersey District Court (Federal)
Court: United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
Citation: 2011 WL 883640

Luis Beltran Flores ("Flores") worked as a seaman on board the commercial fishing vessel M/V CAPTAIN LINWOOD ("the Vessel"). Flores sustained serious bodily injury while the Vessel was fishing in Texas waters. Specifically, his right arm was torn off above the elbow.

On January 3, 2007 Flores brought suit in Texas state court against Predco Services Corp. ("Predco") asserting products liability and maritime tort claims. In his complaint, Flores alleged that Predco designed and manufactured a winch that caused his injuries. In response, Predco filed a Motion to Dismiss arguing the state court lacked personal jurisdiction to hear the case. Predco argued that it did not have sufficient contacts in the state of Texas such that the state court could assert jurisdiction.

The state court denied Predco's motion, but following an appeal, the Texas Court of Appeals reversed and dismissed Flores' complaint on February 11, 2010. Flores' filed a motion for rehearing which the Court of Appeals denied on March 18, 2010.

Flores then filed a similar complaint in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey on March 12, 2010. Therein, Flores asserted the district court had jurisdiction pursuant to the Jones Act.

Before the Court is Predco's Motion to Dismiss the district court suit. Predco argues that Flores' claim is time-barred because he failed to bring the suit in a court of competent jurisdiction within the three-year statute of limitations. Flores counters that he is entitled to equitable tolling of the limitations period and should be allowed to proceed. 

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Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc. v. Jimmie Vickers
Date Decided: Feb 25th, 2011
Decided By: Mississippi Southern District Court (Federal)
Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi
Citation: 782 F.Supp.2d 280

Jimmy Vickers ("Vickers") was injured while working for Atlantic Sounding Company, Inc. ("Atlantic") as a dredge tender operator. Vickers allegedly lost his balance when piloting a tender between a barge and a pontoon line and fell against the tender's console. He underwent surgery for a torn left rotator cuff, received pain medication and was prescribed a course of physical therapy.

Following the injury, Atlantic paid Vickers approximately $26,500 in medical expenses from May 18, 2009 until January 7, 2010.

Atlantic then filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. Therein, Atlantic sought a determination that it was not responsible for any further maintenance and cure beyond the medical expenses it had already paid to Vickers.

Vickers filed a Counter-Claim against Atlantic seeking further maintenance and cure and lost wages. 

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Jerome Bruce v. RCS, LLC, et al.
Date Decided: Mar 1st, 2011
Decided By: Louisiana Eastern District Court (Federal)
Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
Citation: 2011 WL 802614

Jerome Bruce ("Bruce") brought an action for negligence seeking damages pursuant to the Jones Act for injuries he sustained while employed by RCS, LLC ("RCS") as a supervisor to a tank cleaning crew. 

Bruce allegedly sustained injuries to his ankle while boarding an RCS crewboat ("the Vessel"), which was destined to travel offshore to perform tank cleaning services for W & T Offshore Inc. (W & T).

RCS filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing Bruce has not met the requirements for seamen status, thus barring him from bringing an action for negligence under the Jones Act.  

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Harold Julien v. Dynamic Industries, Inc.
Date Decided: Nov 3rd, 2010
Decided By: Louisiana 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals (State)
Court: Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit
Citation: 52 So.3d 174

Harold Julien ("Julien") was employed by Dynamic Industries, Inc. ("Dynamic") as an equipment operator at the Port of Iberia. Dynamic was engaged in building offshore oil and gas platforms at the Port's west yard. Julien's primary duties entailed operating cranes and cherry pickers to transport equipment and material from the yard to a dock area to be loaded onto barges by riggers. However, on "slow days," Julien's supervisor would ask him to help riggers load the barges.

In July 2007, Julien was asked to help the riggers remove a gangplank from a barge. While attaching chains to lift the gangplank, it separated from the barge causing Julien to fall 15 feet to the ground where he landed on metal pipe. Julien was first sent to a hospital, and later to Dynamic's company doctor, Dr. Olga Reavill ("Dr. Reavill"). On the way home from one of his appointments with Dr. Reavill, Julien was told he was being fired for not returning to work.

Julien retained counsel who filed a Claim for Compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act ("LHWCA"), 33 U.S.C. §§ 901-944. Thereafter, Julien discharged his original counsel and hired an attorney who filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation; seeking benefits instead under Louisiana state law.

Dynamic responded by filing a Declinatory Exception of Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction, arguing Julien's claim was covered by the LHWCA. Julien filed a motion to approve his request for benefits under state law, and both matters came before a workers' compensation judge ("WCJ").

The WCJ held that Julien's claim did not fall under the LHWCA and was appropriately brought under state law. It also awarded Julien compensation and medical benefits under state law.

Dynamic appealed the ruling of the WCJ, and Julien answered seeking attorney fees and costs for having to defend the appeal. 

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Jeanette Garnett Pichon v. Asbestos Defendants, et. al.
Date Decided: Nov 17th, 2010
Decided By: Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (State)
Court: Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit
Citation: 52 So.3d 240

The surviving spouse and children ("Plaintiffs") of Leon Roland Pichon ("Pichon") filed a products liability action against numerous manufacturers, distributors and/or sellers of asbestos-containing products including Detroit Diesel Corporation ("DDC").

Plaintiffs allege that Pichon was exposed to asbestos-containing products from 1954 to 2004 during his employment at Halter Marine ("Halter"), and that this exposure caused him to contract lung cancer and mesothelioma (diagnosed in September 2006), which caused his death in November 2006.

DDC filed a Motion for Summary Judgment to dismiss Plaintiff's claims. DDC argued that it could not have any liability for damages caused by Pichon's exposure to asbestos on the grounds that DDC did not exist prior to 1988, and that DDC has never manufactured any products containing asbestos.

The trial court granted DDC's motion reasoning DDC could not be held responsible for Pichon's exposure under the theory of successor liability, and that no genuine issue of fact existed as to whether from the time of DDC's incorporation in 1988, they manufactured or sold any asbestos-containing products to which Pichon could have been exposed.

Plaintiffs appealed the ruling to the Court of Appeal of Louisiana

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Estate of Jonathan R. Cook et al. v. Arthur King Hall
Date Decided: Feb 9th, 2011
Decided By: Superior Court of Connecticut
Court: Superior Court of Connecticut
Citation: 2011 WL 783612

On September 3, 2009, Arthur King Hall ("Arthur Hall") was operating a vessel under the authority of the vessel owner, Bennett Hall ("Bennett Hall"). At approximately 9:30 p.m. the vessel collided with a seawall resulting in the death of Jonathan R. Cook ("the Decedent"), a passenger on the vessel.

Plaintiffs Ronald P. Cook and Jean Roche Cook ("the Cooks"), acting as the co-administrations of the estate of the Decedent brought a civil suit in Connecticut state court against Arthur Hall alleging claims of negligence and recklessness, and seeking damages for the death of the Decedent. The state of Connecticut also filed criminal charges against Arthur Hall with regard to incident.

Bennett Hall filed a petition in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut for exoneration from and/or limitation of liability under the Shipowners' Limitation of Liability Act ("the Limitation Act"), 46 U.S.C.App. § 183(a), seeking to limit his liability for any damages from the incident.

Arthur Hall then filed a Motion for Protective Order in state court requesting the court postpone his upcoming deposition in his civil case against the Cooks on the theory that allowing the deposition to go forward would compromise the preparation of his pending criminal trial. The Cooks contested the motion arguing that the Limitation Act applies only the shipowner, Bennett Hall, and not the ship operator, Arthur Hall.

Before the Superior Court of Connecticut is Hall's Motion for Protective Order to postpone his deposition in his civil case against the Cooks.

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Wright v. Shell Offshore, Inc., et. al.
Date Decided: Feb 17th, 2011
Decided By: Louisiana Eastern District Court (Federal)
Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
Citation: 2011 WL 690530

Eric and Carolyn Wright filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana asserting Jones Act claims of unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure against Eric Wright's former employer, Shell Offshore, Inc. The suit also contained products liability claims against various manufacturers engaged in the production of benzene-containing chemicals and solvents.

Following the institution of this suit, Eric Wright died from acute myelogenous leukemia leaving Carolyn Wright as his surviving spouse and personal representative. Carolyn Wright then amended the complaint to include wrongful death and survival claims. The amended complaint alleges that Eric Wright was exposed to benzene-containing products manufactured by 3M Company ("3M") and that this exposure resulted in his death from leukemia.

Before the Court is 3M's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. 3M argues that Carolyn Wright has failed to plead a single factual allegation showing what 3M product Eric Wright was exposed to, how he was exposed, and why 3M should be held liable for his injuries. 

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In the Matter of the Complaint of Gore Marine Corp.
Date Decided: Feb 10th, 2011 Decided By: Florida Middle District Court (Federal) Court: United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida Citation: 767 F.Supp.2d 1316 Background: This case arose out of an allision between a 24' fishing vessel ("the MISS JIGGS") and an 1800' section of dredge pipeline. While on route to Collier County, Florida, three tugboats towing a crane barge and 1800' feet of dredge pipeline dropped anchor for an overnight stay off of the south end of Sanibel Island. The crane barge and pipeline were secured together and anchored in an east to west direction. Two of the tugs, the DIANA MARIE and the CAPTAIN JEROME rafted up to the apparatus: the DIANA MARIE to the crane barge at the west end, and the CAPTAIN JEROME to the pipeline at the east end. At the time of the allision, the third tug, the MR. TOUP, was en route to join the other tugs from a stopover at Estero Island to the east of the anchorage.   The MISS JIGGS was returning to Estero Island after a day of fishing off a nearby reef. The vessel's two passengers were Donna Skaggs ("Ms. Skaggs"), an experience boater and licensed captain, and her friend John Gillen ("Mr. Gillen"). At 7:15 PM, the MISS JIGGS struck the middle portion of the dredge pipeline at a speed of approximately 24 MPH. Ms. Skaggs was thrown forward toward the vessel's cabin and Mr. Gillen was thrown into the water. Mr. Gillen swam along the pipeline for approximately 15 minutes before reaching the tug DIANA MARIE. Ms. Skaggs, who was knocked unconscious by the impact, radioed the Coast Guard after regaining consciousness. MISS JIGGS' operator, Ms. Skaggs, testified that she hit the pipeline because she failed to see any of the warning lights affixed to it. Ms. Skaggs brought claims under general maritime law against the owner of the CAPTAIN JEROME, Gore Marine Corp. ("Gore") for injuries she sustained. Gore then filed a Complaint for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability under the Limitation of Liability Act ("the Limitation Act"), 46 U.S.C. § 30505. Under the Limitation Act, a vessel owner is exonerated from all liability stemming from an allision if the owner, vessel, and crew were free from any contributory fault. Two presumptions govern what a party must show to prove fault under the Limitation of Liability Act: the Oregon Rule and the Pennsylvania Rule. The Oregon Rule The Oregon Rule provides a rebuttable presumption of fault against a moving vessel that allides with a stationary vessel. To rebut this presumption, the moving vessel must show either that the allision was the fault of the stationary vessel, that the moving vessel acted with reasonable care, or that the allision was an unavoidable accident. The Pennsylvania Rule The Pennsylvania Rule provides that when any vessel is negligent or in violation of a statutory rule designed to prevent allisions, there is a presumption that the vessel was at least a contributory cause of the accident. To rebut this presumption, the vessel must show that its fault could not have been a cause of the accident. Here, Ms. Skaggs is presumed to be at fault under the Oregon Rule because the MISS JIGGS was a moving vessel and the CAPTAIN JEROME was a stationary vessel at the time of the allision. To rebut this presumption, Ms. Skaggs alleges 18 negligent acts or statutory violations by Gore. Gore denies all allegations, and contends that if it was negligent or in violation of a statute, its fault could not have been a cause of the accident under the Pennsylvania Rule, and thus it should be entitled to exoneration from all liability under the Limitation Act.  Read More... [...]