Articles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law

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Barges separated from an Artco towboat, damaging a lock and dam. Artco sought limitation of its liability to the government or exoneration under FRCP F. The court enjoined prosecution of separate suits against Artco or the vessel and directed potential claimants to file claims by June 15, 2011. The government argued that its claim, alleging violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act (RHA), 33 U.S.C. 408, was not subject to the Limitation of Shipowners’ Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. 30501, and need not be litigated in the Rule F proceeding. The government never filed a timely claim in the limitation proceeding. On remand, the district court denied Artco’s motion for a decree of exoneration, reiterating that the government’s claims were not subject to the Limitation Act and that the government could pursue a remedy for its RHA claim. The court concluded that its prior injunction was overbroad and denied Artco’s motion to hold the government in contempt, to impose sanctions, and to direct dismissal of the government’s separate suit. As there were no claims filed in the limitation action, the court denied the government leave to file a late claim and directed dismissal of the limitation action. The Eighth Circuit reversed dismissal of Artco’s limitation action, affirmed denial of Artco’s motion to hold the government in contempt and for sanctions, vacated the order as to the remaining motions, and remanded. View "Am. River Transp. v. United States, Corp of Eng'rs" on Justia Law

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Abhe, an industrial painting contractor, used stationary leased barges as platforms while painting Pell Bridge over Narragansett Bay. Abhe changed insurance carriers three months into the project. St. Paul Fire did not request that Abhe complete an application, but accepted the application provided to its previous insurer in 2010. The attached schedule of vessels was outdated and did not include vessels leased for the Pell Bridge project. Abhe sent St. Paul an updated schedule in 2011, listing those vessels, but did not provide a 2010 survey that showed that one barge had non-watertight bulkheads. St. Paul did not attempt to survey any of the equipment, as it was entitled to do under the policy. After the barge sunk in a storm, St. Paul denied Abhe’s claims and sought a declaration that the policy was void under the doctrine of uberrimae fidei, which requires that parties to an insurance contract accord each other the highest degree of good faith. Abhe counterclaimed, alleging negligence. The district court granted St. Paul summary judgment, finding the package policy void because Abhe failed to disclose the survey. The Eight Circuit remanded, stating that reliance is an element of the defense, and that there are disputed issues of fact as to whether it is satisfied. View "St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. v. Abhe & Svoboda, Inc." on Justia Law

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Starr Indemnity filed suit seeking a determination of their rights and obligations under Continental Cement's insurance policies after the Mark Twain, a cement barge owned by Continental Cement, sank in the Mississippi River. Continental Cement counterclaimed for breach of contract and vexatious refusal to pay under Missouri law. Determining that Continental Cement did not waive its appeal, the court concluded that the district court did not err by applying the federal doctrine of utmost good faith, a judicially established federal admiralty rule, instead of Missouri state law; Continental Cement waived its appeal of the denial of its motion for judgment as a matter of law on Starr Indemnity's utmost good faith defense; and, apart from the issue of waiver, the district court did not abuse its discretion in submitting the utmost good faith instruction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "New York Marine & General Ins., et al. v. Continental Cement Co., et al." on Justia Law

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The M/V Julie White, a towboat owned by Artco, was pushing four barges on the river when the barges separated from the towboat and allided with Lock and Dam 25. The barges then sank. After Artco salvaged and removed the sunken barges from the Mississippi River, Artco filed suit under the Limitation of Shipowners' Liability Act (Limitation Act), 46 U.S.C. 30501-12, seeking exoneration from, or limitation of liability for, claims arising from the allision. On appeal, Artco challenged the district court's dismissal of the limitation complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) because the United States' claims under the Rivers and Harbors Act, 33 U.S.C. 401-76, were not subject to limitation under the Limitation Act. The court concluded that the government did not have statutory standing because it failed to file a claim in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Supplemental F(5), and therefore, the district court erred by entertaining the government's motion to dismiss the limitation complaint. Because the court concluded that the government was without standing, the court need not address the merits of the government's motion to dismiss. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "American River Transp., et al. v. United States, Corp of Engineers" on Justia Law

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Nicole Walker and Bart Hyde pled guilty to conspiring to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine. Defendants appealed their respective sentences, arguing that the district court clearly erred in calculating the drug quantity attributable to each of them. Hyde also argued that the district court erred in imposing an obstruction of justice enhancement and failed to reduce Hyde's sentence for acceptance of responsibility. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not rely on unreliable evidence or apply an overly broad definition of conspiracy; (2) the district court did not clearly err in determining Defendants distributed "ice" as defined in the Sentencing Guidelines; (3) the district court did not err in applying an obstruction of justice enhancement based on the court's determination that Defendant intentionally gave false testimony; and (4) the district court did not err in denying a reduction for acceptance of responsibility. View "United States v. Walker" on Justia Law