Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law
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The First Circuit vacated the decision of the district court dismissing for failure to state a claim this suit challenging the federal government's decision not to waive indefinitely the cabotage provision of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria, holding that Plaintiffs lacked standing and dismissal was required on jurisdictional grounds. In this suit, Plaintiffs challenged the provision of the Jones Act, which applies to Puerto Rico and prohibits foreign-flag vessels from transporting merchandise between United States coastwise points. The district court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The First Circuit vacated the judgment below and remanded for the claims to be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, holding that Plaintiffs, each of whom owned real estate and/or personal property in Puerto Rico, failed to set forth allegations in their complaint that were sufficient to establish standing. View "Perez-Kudzma v. United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Appellants' convictions for drug trafficking under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA), 46 U.S.C. 70501-70508, holding that the protective principle of international law permitted the United States to arrest and prosecute Appellants even if, as they argued, their vessel possessed Costa Rican nationality. Appellants were on a small speed boat in the western Caribbean Sea when they were interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard and subsequently arrested. Appellants moved to dismiss their indictment under the MDLEA, which allows U.S. law enforcement to arrest foreign nationals for drug crimes committed in international waters, arguing that the statute exceeds Congress's authority under Article I of the Constitution and violates the Due Process Clause. The district court denied the motion to dismiss, and Appellants pleaded guilty. On appeal, Appellants again challenged the constitutionality of the MDLEA, arguing that their vessel was not properly deemed stateless. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the protective principle of international law, as applied by the First Circuit, permits prosecution under the MDLEA even of foreigners on foreign vessels; and (2) there was no abuse of discretion in the sentence imposed. View "United States v. Davila-Reyes" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs within the zone of danger may recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress under the general maritime law. Plaintiffs brought this maritime action against Defendant, which they hired to ferry three construction vehicles and their drivers from Rockland, Maine to North Haven, Maine, after two of the vehicles tipped over onto the vessel’s port bulwark during rough seas. Plaintiffs claimed that the ship captain was negligent and seeking damages for property loss and emotional distress. The district court found in favor of Plaintiffs and awarded $257,154 in damages, including $100,000 for emotional distress. The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in substantial part, vacating only one element of the damages award, holding (1) the district court properly found that the weather conditions that caused the incident were foreseeable; (2) the district court’s award for damaged plywood panels rested on a clearly erroneous view of the facts, but the remainder of the damages award was not in error; (3) maritime plaintiffs within the “zone of danger” can recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress in the First Circuit; and (4) the district court did not clearly err in determining that Plaintiffs were within the zone of danger and that they experienced physical consequences of emotional distress. View "Sawyer Brothers, Inc. v. Island Transporter, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning the application and operation of Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the First Circuit held that the exclusionary remedy limned in Article 31(d) applies to evidence offered in a trial by court-martial but not in a non-judicial punishment proceeding. Petitioner, a petty officer in the United States Navy, received a non-judicial punishment, rescission of his recommendation for promotion, and an adverse employment evaluation. Petitioner appealed, alleging, inter alia, that his waiver of Article 31 rights was involuntary. The Board of Correction of Naval Records upheld the adverse employment consequences. Petitioner sought judicial review. The district court refused to set aside the Board’s decision. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the Board’s determination of voluntariness and its approval of the adverse employment consequences were in accordance with law. View "Sasen v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit declined to extend the reach of a maritime lien claim to encompass a pre-established purchase cost of items rented by a charterer pursuant to a temporary rental and service contract and affirmed the judgment of the district court limiting the in rem maritime lien claim of Appellant on the arrested ship, the M/V NOVA STAR. Appellant’s claim arose from its agreement with the ship’s charterer to rent linens and other items for the ship’s ferry service. The district court refused to grant Appellant’s maritime lien claim in its entirety and entered judgment for Appellant in the amount of $16,187. The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding (1) the court properly limited the maritime lien to the amount of $16,187; and (2) the court correctly concluded that the inventory remaining in Appellant’s warehouse in Westbrook, Maine was not “delivered” in a manner as to create a maritime lien for its replacement cost according to the default provision of the rental contract. View "Maine Uniform Rental, Inc. v. Nova Star M/V" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part a district court order dismissing claims brought by Ironshore Specialty Insurance Company, the entity that paid the clean-up costs after a large military vessel spilled over 11,000 gallons of fuel next to Boston Harbor, against American Overseas Marine Company, LLC (AMSEA) and the United States. Ironshore sought cleanup costs and damages under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990, a declaratory judgment finding AMSEA and the United States to be strictly liable under the OPA, and damages sounding in general admiralty and maritime law as a result of AMSEA’s and the United States’ alleged negligence. The district court dismissed all claims. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the dismissal of all of Ironshore’s claims against AMSEA; (2) affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Ironshore’s OPA claims against the United States; but (3) reversed the district court’s dismissal of Ironshore’s general admiralty and maritime negligence claims brought against the United States under the Suits in Admiralty Act because these claims were not foreclosed by the OPA. View "Ironshore Specialty Insurance Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Regulations promulgated by the National Marine Fisheries Service require that commercial fishermen must, on occasion, be accompanied on their vessels by at-sea monitors to ensure accountability with respect to catch limits. The regulations require that the fishermen bear the costs of the at-sea monitors. Plaintiff, a New Hampshire fisherman subject to the industry funding requirement for the at-sea monitoring program, brought suit in federal district court claiming that the industry funding requirement violated several laws and was unconstitutional. Plaintiff was joined in the proceedings by a group of commercial fishermen also subject to the industry funding requirement. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the government, concluding that the action was untimely filed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s suit was not filed within the applicable statute of limitations. View "Goethel v. U.S. Department of Commerce" on Justia Law

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Jamie Rogers, a seaman, was injured on a fishing vessel owned and operated by Block Island Fishing, Inc. Block Island made some “maintenance and cure” payments to Rogers. Block Island then brought this suit against Rogers to dispute the duration and amount of maintenance and cure payments that it owed. Block Island filed a motion for summary judgment. The district court found that November 18, 2014 was the date on which Block Island’s obligations ended and reserved for a jury to determine the exact sum that Block Island owed Rogers for his living expenses. The court then ruled that Block Island had overpaid Rogers and that Block Island could offset the sum of overpayment against any damages award that Rogers might win at trial. The First Circuit affirmed in part and vacated and remanded in part, holding (1) the district court erred by sua sponte replacing Block Island’s proposed date of July 31, 2014 with its own date without giving Rogers sufficient notice of opportunity to make his case against the new date; and (2) Block Island may offset any overpayment against Rogers’ potential damages award but may not sue for the sum in an independent action. View "Block Island Fishing, Inc. v. Rogers" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former professional sailor, was an employee of Defendant, which owed a sailing vessel and motor support vessel. Plaintiff was injured during his employment. Plaintiff later invoked admiralty jurisdiction and sued Defendant in federal district court alleging negligence under the Jones Act and unseaworthiness under general maritime law. The district court awarded Plaintiff $1,460,458 in damages for loss of earnings and loss of future earning capacity and for pain, suffering, and mental anguish. The court subsequently granted Plaintiff’s motion to add prejudgment interest to the damages award. Defendant appealed, arguing that the damages award was excessive and that the prejudgment interest increment was inappropriate. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the award of damages, holding that the award was not excessive; and (2) affirmed in part and reversed in part the interest award, holding that the district court committed reversible error in failing to follow Borges v. Our Lady of the Sea Corp. in awarding prejudgment interest. View "Nevor v. Moneypenny Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Catlin (Syndicate 2003) at Lloyd’s (“Catlin”) issued to San Juan Towing and Marine Services (SJT), a ship repair company based on San Jan, Puerto Rico, a marine insurance policy to cover SJT’s floating drydock. After the drydock was damaged and sold for scrap, the SJT filed a claim with Catlin, alleging the total loss of the drydock in the amount of $1,750,000. Catlin denied this claim. Catlin then filed a declaratory judgment complaint against SJT, alleging eight admiralty or maritime claims and seeking to void the policy. SJT filed a separate diversity suit against Catlin seeking recovery for the full insured value under the policy for the loss of the drydock. At trial, the district court concluded that the insurance policy was void ab initio pursuant to the doctrine of uberrimae fidei. The First Circuit affirmed as modified, holding (1) the contract was voidable, not void ab initio; and (2) SJT violated the doctrine of uberrimae fidei in its procurement of the policy, and thus, Catlin was entitled to void the policy. View "Catlin (Syndicate 2003) at Lloyd’s v. San Juan Towing & Marine Servs., Inc." on Justia Law