Archives: Maritime

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Fifth Circuit Identifies Potential Conflict with Supreme Court on Jones Act Seaman Test

In Sanchez v. Smart Fabricators of Texas, LLC, 970 F.3d 550,  a three-judge panel of the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal held on August 14, 2020, that seaman status under the Jones Act may apply to an injured welder on a jack-up oil rig adjacent to an inland pier. Maintaining that the plaintiff … Continue Reading

U.S. Customs Revokes Recent Offshore Wind Ruling; Maintains Uncertainty Whether the Jones Act Applies to Wind Farm Installations on the OCS

On July 15, 2020, the Unites States Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) issued a ruling (HQ H309672) in connection with the installation of an offshore wind farm located off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts in U.S. territorial waters (the “July 15 Ruling”).  CBP determined that activities to be conducted in connection with the … Continue Reading

U.S. Fifth Circuit Clarifies “Substantial Nexus” Test for LHWCA

In Mays v. Chevron Pipe Line Co., 2020 WL 4432025, a three-judge panel of the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal held on August 3, 2020, that the Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act may apply to an injury in state territorial waters if there is a substantial nexus between an employee’s injury and his … Continue Reading

COVID-19 as a Force Majeure? The Texas and Louisiana Perspectives

Today, countries worldwide are responding to a pandemic of respiratory disease spreading from person-to-person caused by a novel coronavirus.  The disease has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).  The pandemic poses a serious public health risk, and government response has included closure of schools and businesses, declarations of emergency, and issuance of a variety … Continue Reading

Maritime Industry COVID 19 Update

In response to the continuing COVID-19 epidemic, the United States Coast Guard, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have issued a series of administrative guidelines or regulations broadly affecting international maritime commerce. In addition to this agency action, the AWO and other sectors of … Continue Reading

OSHA Awards Damages for Retaliatory Discharge of Jones Act Seaman in Violation of Seaman’s Protection Act

In a stark reminder of the sanctity of Coast Guard investigations, and the consequences of impeding such investigations, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently took action against a maritime employer for allegedly retaliating against a seaman who cooperated with the Coast Guard in connection with its investigation of a … Continue Reading

Possible Change to Jones Act Interpretations Regarding Coastwise Activities

The saga of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) ten-year effort to amend its interpretation of key components of the Jones Act continues.  After failed attempts to expand the scope of the Jones Act’s prohibition on activities by non-coastwise endorsed vessels in 2009 and 2017, CBP recently published a notice of proposed modification and … Continue Reading

SCOTUS Decides Dutra Group v. Batterton

Today the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in this landmark case concerning punitive damages.  The six justices in the majority opinion reversed the Ninth Circuit and resolved a circuit split on this issue.  The question presented was whether punitive damages may be awarded to a Jones Act seaman in a personal injury suit … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Holds State Wage and Hour Laws are Inapplicable to Offshore Drilling Platforms

In a decision that could have far-reaching implications, the United States Supreme Court issued a June 10 opinion holding that California’s wage-and-hour laws do not apply to workers on oil and gas platforms located in open water on the Outer Continental Shelf. The plaintiffs in Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd. v. Newton, were offshore rig workers who filed … Continue Reading

5th Circuit Grants En Banc Rehearing to Address Federal Officer Removal

After years of inconsistent rulings, the Fifth Circuit is poised to address a removal issue with significant ramifications for Louisiana tort cases. The previous version of 28 U.S.C. § 1442 authorized removal to federal court of a suit against a federal officer “only when the state suit was ‘for any act under color of such … Continue Reading

Louisiana Supreme Court Limits Effect of Collateral Source Rule in Personal Injury Cases

On May 9, 2019, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued an important opinion restricting application of the collateral source rule in personal injury lawsuits. In Simmons v. Cornerstone Investments, LLC, et al., 2018-CC-0735 (La. 5/8/19), the Court held the collateral source rule inapplicable to medical expenses charged above the amount actually paid by a workers’ compensation … Continue Reading

Admiralty Professor Haycraft Reports from the Courthouse Steps on the Dutra v. Batterton Supreme Court Argument

This morning I attended oral argument at the United States Supreme Court in the maritime case of Dutra Group v. Batterton.[1]  The question in the case is whether a Jones Act seaman may recover punitive damages on an unseaworthiness claim.  Former Solicitor General Seth Waxman argued for Petitioner Dutra Group and David Frederick argued for … Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Addresses Circuit Split Regarding “Bare Metal” Defense in Products Liability Action Under General Maritime Law

In Air & Liquid Systems Corp. v. Devries, No. 17-1104, — S. Ct. —, 2019 WL 1245520 (U.S. March 19, 2019), the U.S. Supreme Court resolved a circuit split regarding maritime law and the “bare metal” defense, namely whether manufacturers have a duty to warn when their bare metal product requires later incorporation of a … Continue Reading

FIFTH CIRCUIT BEGINS TO CLEAN UP ITS JURISPRUDENCE ON HOW TO DETERMINE WHETHER A CONTRACT IS (OR IS NOT) MARITIME

After some thirty years of wrestling with the cumbersome six-part test set forth in Davis & Sons, Inc. v. Gulf Oil Corp.,[1] for determining whether a contract to perform services related to oil & gas exploration on navigable waters is maritime, the Fifth Circuit took up In re Larry Doiron, Incorporated[2] earlier this year in … Continue Reading

Third Circuit Issues Long-Awaited Ruling in OPA Liability Case

On March 29, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued its ruling in In re: Petition of Frescati Shipping Co., Ltd., as Owner of the M/T ATHOS I, Nos. 16-3552, 16-3867 & 16-3868 (3d Cir. Mar. 29, 2018).  ATHOS I had its genesis in a 2004 vessel allision and oil … Continue Reading

FBA Provides Update on Maritime Developments in New Orleans and the Lower Mississippi River Region

I attended a great meeting yesterday at the Port of New Orleans hosted by the FBA Admiralty Law Committee. Here are some bullets and takeaways, which are certainly of interest to anyone in the maritime industry along the lower Mississippi River.  I am especially grateful that the following people were able to speak with us: … Continue Reading

Ninth and Fifth Circuits Split on Issue of Punitive Damages Under Maritime Law

The stage appears to be set for intervention by the United States Supreme Court following the Ninth Circuit’s recent panel decision in Batterton v. Dutra Group, No. 15-56775 (9th Cir. Jan. 23, 2018).  In Batterton, the Ninth Circuit expressly disagreed with the Fifth Circuit in holding that an injured seaman may recover punitive damages in … Continue Reading

Highly Anticipated En Banc Fifth Circuit Opinion Reframes Maritime Contract Analysis

In a highly anticipated ruling, the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its en banc decision in In re: Larry Doiron, Inc., No. 16-30217 (5th Cir. Jan. 8, 2018).  The case called upon the court to determine whether a contract for performance of specialty services to facilitate the drilling or production of oil … Continue Reading

U.S. Fifth Circuit Affirms $20 Million Judgment Against Barge Owner as Responsible Party Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990

Case:    United States v. American Commercial Lines, L.L.C., No. 16-31150, ___ F.3d ___ (5th Cir. 11/7/17). Factual Background In July of 2008, nearly 300,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Mississippi River in New Orleans when a tugboat towing an oil-filled barge veered across the river into the path of an ocean-going tanker.  American … Continue Reading

Louisiana Supreme Court Holds Punitive Damages Are Available Under General Maritime Law Against Products Liability Defendant

Case:  Warren v. Shelter Mutual Ins. Co., No. 2016-C-1647 (La. 10/18/17), ___ So. 3d ___. Factual Background A recreational boating accident occurred on navigable inland waters of Louisiana in May of 2005 resulting in the death of a 22-year old passenger. While the boat was on plane, the hydraulic steering system manufactured by defendant Teleflex … Continue Reading

The Fifth Circuit Rejects the DOJ’s Attempt to Charge Black Elk Contractors with OCSLA Felonies

In the aftermath of a 2012 platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in which three workers were killed, the Department of Justice ultimately indicted the contractors who supervised the work (along with the lease holder, Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations, LLC) with violating the Outer Continental Shelf Land Act (“OCSLA”), a felony carrying a … Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Addresses A Complicated Cargo Dispute, Resulting In A Victory For Vessel-Operating Common Carriers

In GIC Services, L.L.C. v. Freightplus USA, Inc., No. 15-3097 (5th Cir. Aug. 8, 2017), the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that an ocean carrier stiffed by an intermediary in a freight transaction may recover unpaid freight from the original NVOCC who arranged the cargo transportation unless the evidence clearly shows the … Continue Reading

U.S. Fifth Circuit Greenlights Contribution Action for Purely Economic Damages Under Oil Pollution Act (OPA)

In Settoon Towing, L.L.C. v. Marquette Transportation Company, L.L.C., No. 16-30459 (5th Cir. Jun. 9, 2017), the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held for the first time that a Responsible Party under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA”) has a statutory claim for contribution to recover purely economic damages from a partially … Continue Reading

U.S. Fifth Circuit Adopts Broad Definition of “Good Faith” for Louisiana Environmental Whistleblower Claims

On June 1, 2017, the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Borcik v. Crosby Tugs, L.L.C. applied a broad definition of the intent required of a plaintiff under the Louisiana Environmental Whistleblower Act.  In doing so, both the Fifth Circuit and the Louisiana Supreme Court apply a more plaintiff friendly standard to claims … Continue Reading
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