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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Federal Court News

Eleventh Amendment and removal of admiralty case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not prevent removal of an admiralty case to federal court where the state involved is the plaintiff. In the instant case, the State of Oklahoma brought suit in state court against the owner of the tugboat that allided with a highway bridge, resulting in severe damage to the bridge and the deaths of various persons. Defendant tugboat owner removed the case to federal court. The state’s motion to remand back to state court was denied and the state appealed. The appellate court held that the Eleventh Amendment only applies in cases where the state is the defendant, so as to avoid states being involuntarily involved in federal court proceedings.

Eleventh Amendment and Limitation of Liability

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not prevent a ship owner from pursuing a limitation of liability claim where one of the claimants is a state. In the instant case, the State of Oklahoma brought suit in state court against the owner of a tugboat that allided with a highway bridge, resulting in severe damage to the bridge and the deaths of various persons. Defendant tugboat owner removed the case to federal court. The state contended that, under the Eleventh Amendment, a state cannot be prohibited from pursuing its claim in state court and cannot be forced to pursue its claim in federal court. The federal appellate court held that the Eleventh Amendment is a shield, not a sword.

Jones Act – State and Federal Proceedings

In an unpublished decision, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that it is inappropriate to dismiss an employer’s federal court action against an employee for breach of contract merely because it relates to a state court action brought by the employee against the employer for damages under the Jones Act. In the instant case, the employee was injured while working on the employer’s vessel. Following medical treatment, the employee signed a release and was paid $4,000. A year later, the employee brought suit in state court under the Jones Act. The employer then filed suit in federal court for breach of the release contract. The employee filed a motion to stay the federal litigation in favor of the state action, which the federal district court granted. The employer appealed.

An Exception to the Divers' Exception?

By James P. Nader & Rudolph F. An occupational study estimates that the number of commercial diving positions nationwide will grow to an anticipated total of 5,000 positions over the next decade. For the uninitiated, the focus of these commercial divers spans the gamut from extensive inspection of hulls and pipelines to the construction and repair of underwater structures to the demolition and removal of underwater obstacles, and onwards to the search and rescue of people and missing objects. While the commercial diving industry is certainly diverse, every diver shares a certain level of risk of injury when entering the water. Therefore…

US Marshals Service Detains Tanker in Philadelphia

The U.S. Marshals Service has blocked a vessel headed to the Monroe Energy refinery outside of Philadelphia from leaving the port in connection with a civil court order, the federal agency said.   The order was issued by a civil court judge in Eastern federal court related to failure to make payments, the federal agency said on Friday.   The vessel's name is Advantage Avenue, the federal agency said.   (Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Chris Reese)

U.S. Federal Court Bars OPEC From Price Fixing

A U.S. federal court reportedly has granted a one-year injunction barring oil producer group OPEC from fixing prices. Prewitt Enterprises won a civil anti-trust case in an Alabama court, accusing the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) of conspiring to fix oil prices through oil supply agreements. OPEC is for the next year "restrained from entering any agreements among themselves or with third parties to raise, lower, or otherwise determine volumes of production and export of crude oil," a Senior U.S. District Judge ruled March 21. OPEC made successive cuts in production through 1998 and 1999 that pushed crude oil prices to their high level since the Gulf War and lifted gasoline pump prices to record highs.

Ship Operator Pleads Guilty to River Dumping

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that a U.S. ship operator pled guilty in federal court to dumping wastes into the Mississippi River and has agreed to pay a fine of $200,000, serve three years probation, and develop an environmental compliance program. In a separate case, the owner and operator of a foreign vessel, as well as the chief engineer, pled guilty in federal court to violating the Clean Water Act and making false statements. The companies will pay a collective fine of $750,000, develop a comprehensive environmental management plan, and serve four years probation. The chief engineer faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Fugitive Treasure Hunter Arrested in Florida

An Ohio man who recovered as much as $400 million in gold from a shipwreck has been arrested in Florida after two years on the run and was scheduled to appear in federal court on Wednesday. Tommy Thompson was detained on Tuesday night at a Hilton hotel in west Boca Raton, Florida, said Barry Golden, spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service in the Southern District of Florida. He was due to appear in federal court in West Palm Beach on Wednesday, Golden said. He is wanted for failing to appear in a federal court in Ohio in 2012. Thompson was arrested with a woman, Alison Antekeier, who also has an outstanding arrest warrant in Ohio, according to Golden. They appeared to have been living in the hotel for about two years, he said.

Baghdad Seeks to Have Kurdish Oil Dispute Settled in Iraq

Baghdad wants to settle a high-stakes dispute over $100 million worth of Kurdish crude oil in Iraq's  courts, although the oil is sitting in a tanker off the coast of Texas, a U.s. court filing  said on Friday. Iraq's central government has also asked Iraq's Federal Supreme Court to block the Kurdistan Regional Government from exporting any crude until its ownership can be determined, said the filing in federal court in Houston. The central government contends it belongs to the country as a whole, not just the Kurdistan region. The latest legal challenge follows Iraq in May bringing criminal charges against the Kurdistan government, alleging theft of oil revenues. However, Kurdistan has failed to appear in court to address the charges, the filing said.

Costa Concordia Victims Win U.S. Jurisdiction Victory

Survivors of the Costa Concordia grounding win a huge victory in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The District Judge ordered the claims of 104 survivors remanded to the Florida State Court for continued litigation. The court's February 15, 2013 order concerned two cases, Denise Abeid-Saba , et al., v. Carnival Corporation et al., (USDC-SDFla Docket No.: 12-CV-23513) and Scimone v. Carnival Corp., (USDC-S.D.Fla Docket No.: 12-CV-23505), together representing the claims of 104 plaintiffs injured when the huge ship capsized after grounding on rocks just off the shore of Isola del Giglio . Both cases were initially commenced in the Florida State Court against Carnival Corp. as the parent corporation as well as ship designers and the architect.

Irving Shipyard Asks for High Court Ruling

According to a June 23 report from the Canadian Press, Irving Shipbuilding, the company that lost a multibillion-dollar submarine maintenance contract, is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to allow its legal challenge of the deal to proceed. When the maintenance contract was awarded in 2007 to a West Coast firm, Irving sought a judicial review. But the Federal Court of Appeal ruled the shipbuilder did not have standing to ask for such a review based on suspicions there was bias involved. (Source: Canadian Press)

Exoneration from Liability versus Saving to Suitors

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that a vessel owner filing a federal action for exoneration from or limitation of liability cannot prevent a state court action from going forward if the state claimant stipulates that: (1) federal jurisdiction controls limitation of liability; (2) he waives any claim of res judicata regarding a state court decision relating to limitation of liability; and (3) he would not seek any judgment or recovery in excess of the limitation fund. The vessel owner contended that, since the Limitation of Liability Act also addresses exoneration from liability, its action prevailed over any state court action regarding liability.

Former Norwegian Cruise Line CEO sues Virgin Group

The former chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd sued Richard Branson's Virgin Group in federal court in Miami for $300 million on Wednesday over plans by the British billionaire to launch his own luxury cruise line.   The lawsuit by Colin Veitch, who oversaw Norwegian from 2000 to 2008, claims that Virgin muscled him out of a joint venture to break into the industry with massive ships capable of carrying thousands of passengers and operating as floating resorts, according to court documents.     (Reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Editing by David Adams and Eric Walsh)

Organizations File Briefs in Support of Stolt-Nielsen Case

Nine separate organizations, including a foreign sovereign government, leading trade associations and other groups have filed amicus curiae briefs with the Supreme Court of the United States urging the Court agree to hear the Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. United States case. Stolt-Nielsen S.A. expressed its appreciation that these organizations urged review of a decision by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which held that federal courts lack the authority to enforce prosecutors' promises pre-indictment, which is in conflict with the decisions of the Seventh Circuit. "In breaching its promises with Stolt-Nielsen, the Department of Justice overstepped any legitimate prosecutorial boundary," James B.

Washington State Sued for Blocking Coal Exports to Asia

© Unkas Photo / Adobe Stock

A company that planned to build a coal export terminal in the Pacific Northwest to ship western U.S. coal to Asian markets sued the state of Washington on Wednesday for blocking construction last year. Lighthouse Resources Inc filed a lawsuit in federal court against Washington Governor Jay Inslee and two state regulators for allegedly violating the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause by denying permits to allow the company to ship coal mined in Wyoming, Montana and other western states through its proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal to clients in Japan and South Korea.

FMC Files Against Ports of LA/LB

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) issued a notice stating that it filed in federal court a complaint against the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach alleging violation of the Shipping Act of 1984. (Source: Holland & Knight)

New York Federal Court Finds Coast Guard Immune To Negligence Claim

In Smith v. United States Coast Guard, 2002 WL 31094803 (S.D.N.Y. September 16, 2002), plaintiffs, passengers aboard the CONSERVATOR, which capsized in 1998, sued the Coast Guard for negligence in (a) certifying the vessel for the carriage of passengers, (b) failing to warn plaintiffs of the vessel's dangerous condition, and (c) failing to conduct a reinspection of the vessel. The court dismissed the claims, finding they fell within the implied discretionary exception to The Suits in Admiralty Act. Source: Marine Legal Update

Decision on Foreign Seaman's Wage Claims

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that wage claims brought by foreign seamen for work on foreign ships are subject to the Foreign Arbitral Awards Convention, even where the claims are based on U.S. law. In the instant case, plaintiff Philippine seamen brought suit in federal court in Louisiana against the shipowner, alleging violation of the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for failure to pay federal minimum wage and overtime. Defendant asserted that plaintiffs’ employment contracts were controlled by Philippine law and required arbitration of wage disputes in the Philippines. The trial court refused to order arbitration, citing a Louisiana law expressing the state’s strong public policy against forum selection clauses in employment contracts.

Expanded Scope of Maritime Contract Jurisdiction

For decades, it has been a basic principle of U.S. admiralty law that contracts for the sale of a vessel are not within the maritime jurisdiction.3 While the principle has been criticized,4 nonetheless it is still considered black letter law. In a decision issued last week, a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Honorable Shira A. In Kalafrana, an aspect of the sales agree­ment concerned repairs to the vessel. A dispute over the repairs led to a arbitration and award. The New York Rule B action was based on the award. While Judge Scheindlin certainly recognized and acknowledged the traditional precedent, the Court held that more recent U.S.

Owner of Ship Repair Facility Convicted of CWA Violation

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release stating that the ex-owner of a now-closed Newport, Oregon ship repair facility pleaded guilty in federal court to violating the Clean Water Act. The company renovated and painted ships by pressure washing and sand blasting the hulls. The owner allowed grit and paint from his operation to be discharged into the Yaquina River. When sentenced, the owner faces a maximum sentence of up to three years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. Source: HK Law

Chief Engineer Pleads Guilty to Making False Statements

The U.S. Department of Justice issued a Press Release stating that the chief engineer of an oil tanker pled guilty in federal court to making false statements to deceive the U.S. Coast Guard with regard to overboard discharges of oil-contaminated bilge waste. The offenses occurred during a routine port state control (PSC) boarding by the Coast Guard in Portland, Maine. The chief engineer faces a maximum penalty of up to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, and probation for up to three years. Source: HK Law

Chemoil Files Suit Against STUSCO

Chemoil Corporation announced today that it has filed suit against Shell Trading US Co. (STUSCO) in the Federal Courts of the Southern District of Texas in connection with certain acidic products, which STUSCO supplied to Chemoil during 2003. In this suit, Chemoil is seeking indemnity from STUSCO, as well as damages for breach of contract and other causes of action. This action is directly related to a series of TAN (Total Acid Number) bunker claims received by Chemoil in New Orleans during April of 2003, which were the subject of a previous Chemoil News release (Acid Fuel/US Gulf Coast, June 26, 2003).

Engineering Officer Pleads Guilty to Obstructing USCG Investigation

The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington issued a Press Release stating that an engineering officer on the M/V Hoegh Minerva pled guilty in federal court to a felony violation related to obstructing the U.S. Coast Guard’s investigation of intentional dumping of waste oil into the ocean. The officer faces a maximum penalty of twenty (20) years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The investigation is ongoing regarding other parties who may be involved. Source: HK Law

Maritime Reporter Magazine Cover Dec 2017 - The Great Ships of 2017

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