Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law
Flame S.A. v. Freight Bulk Pte. Ltd.
Freight Bulk appealed the district court's denial of its motion to vacate a writ of maritime attachment previously issued in favor of Flame under Supplemental Rule B of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court held that the district court did not err in concluding that the Forward Freight Swap Agreements at issue in this case are maritime contracts. Therefore, the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter before it. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Flame S.A. v. Freight Bulk Pte. Ltd." on Justia Law
Posted in: Admiralty & Maritime Law
American Steamship Owners v. Dann Ocean Towing, Inc.
The Club is a non-profit provider of protection and indemnity insurance. The Club's Rules include a choice-of-law provision selecting New York law and a two-year statute of limitations for claims against the Club. The Club filed a civil action against defendant alleging that it breached the insurance contract by failing to reimburse the Club for a shortfall and by failing to pay the overdue insurance premiums. The court agreed with the district court, and precedent, that an otherwise valid choice-of-law provision in a maritime contract is enforceable and may require application of a jurisdiction's statute of limitations, in lieu of the doctrine of laches, to govern issues regarding the timeliness of claims asserted under that agreement. Accordingly, the court held that the district court correctly applied New York's six-year statute of limitations to the Club's claims arising under its maritime insurance contract with plaintiff. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "American Steamship Owners v. Dann Ocean Towing, Inc." on Justia Law
Turner v. United States
Plaintiff filed personal injury and wrongful death claims against the United States and Coast Guard under the Suits in Admiralty Act (SIAA), 46 U.S.C. 30901-30918. Plaintiff and her husband fell overboard their boat and her husband subsequently died of drowning. The court concluded that the Coast Guard neither increased the danger facing plaintiff and her husband nor induced reliance on the part of either plaintiff, her husband, or a third party. Accordingly, plaintiff could not prove that the Coast Guard breached its duty to her or her deceased husband, and the district court properly entered summary judgment on plaintiff's tort claims. The court also found that the rulings on the issues of spoliation and the timeliness of the motion reflected proper exercises of the district court's discretion and the court affirmed as to these issues. The court also affirmed the district court's ruling that the Coast Guard's response to plaintiff's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, request satisfied its duty under that Act. View "Turner v. United States" on Justia Law
Angelex Ltd. v. United States
The government appealed the district court's order which altered the terms of a bond the Coast Guard had fixed for the release of a detained ship that was under investigation and restricted the types of penalties the government could seek for the ship's potential violations of certain ocean pollution prevention statutes. The ship at issue, the Pappadakis, an ocean-going bulk cargo carrier carrying a shipment of coal to Brazil, was detained by the Coast Guard because the vessel had likely been discharging bilge water overboard. The court reversed and remanded for dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) where the matter was not subject to review in the district court because the Coast Guard's actions were committed to agency discretion by law. Consequently, the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition. View "Angelex Ltd. v. United States" on Justia Law
United States v. Shibin
Defendant appealed his convictions stemming from his involvement in conducting the negotiations for the ransom of a ship seized by pirates and for his participation in the torture of the ship's crew as part of the process. The court affirmed defendant's piracy convictions in Counts 1 and 7, based on his intentionally facilitating two piracies on the high seas, even though his facilitating conduct took place in Somalia and its territorial waters; affirmed the district court's ruling denying defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment for lack of personal jurisdiction based on his being brought into the United States involuntarily; universal jurisdiction was irrelevant to the prosecution of Counts 2 through 6 and each of those counts was based on a statute that Congress validly applied to extraterritorial conduct, including defendant's conduct; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting an FBI agent's testimony because they were admitted only as prior inconsistent statements. The court rejected defendant's Crawford v. Washington claim and affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. Shibin" on Justia Law
Clodfelter v. Republic of Sudan
Plaintiffs filed suit against Sudan after the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole and the district court found Sudan liable under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), 46 U.S.C. 30301 et seq. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's conclusion that the DOHSA action precluded their subsequent federal cause of action under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605. The court concluded that the various provisions of section 1083 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (NDAA), Pub. L. No. 110-181, 122 Stat. 3, were inapplicable here and, therefore, the court declined to consider the constitutionality of NDAA section 1083; the district court did not abuse its discretion when, as part of a close look, considered sua sponte whether res judicata barred plaintiffs' claims; but the court concluded, however, that res judicata should not apply here. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Clodfelter v. Republic of Sudan" on Justia Law
Village of Bald Head Island v. U. S. Army Corps
The Village commenced this action against the Corps to require it to honor commitments made to the Village and other North Carolina towns when developing its plan to widen, deepen, and realign portions of the Cape Fear River navigation channel. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court agreed with the district court's holding that the Corps' failure to implement "commitments" made to the Village during development of the plans for the project was not final agency action subject to judicial review. The court also concluded that the alleged contracts on which the Village relied for its contract claims were not maritime contracts that justified the exercise of admiralty jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Village of Bald Head Island v. U. S. Army Corps" on Justia Law
Vitol, S.A. v. Capri Marine LTD
Vitol brought the underlying action against S&P seeking to "pierce the corporate veil" and enforce a judgment against S&P it had previously obtained against Capri Marine. The district court granted motions to dismiss and to vacate attachment filed by S&P after determining that its exercise of admiralty jurisdiction was proper. The court agreed that the district court properly exercised admiralty jurisdiction over Vitol's claims. On the merits, however, the court concluded that dismissal was appropriate pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) where Vitol's allegations were conclusory and contained legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, and the district court's order of attachment was properly vacated. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Vitol, S.A. v. Capri Marine LTD" on Justia Law
United States v. Dire; United States v. Ali; United States v. Umar; United States v. Gurewardher; United States v. Hasan
Defendants, all Somalis, were convicted, among other things, of the crime of piracy under 18 U.S.C. 1651 after they launched an attack on the USS Nicholas on the high seas between Somalia and the Seychelles. On appeal, defendants challenged their convictions and sentences on several grounds, including that their attack on the USS Nicholas did not, as a matter of law, amount to a section 1651 piracy offense. Because the district court correctly applied the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, art. 101, definition of piracy as customary international law, the court rejected defendants' challenge to their Count One piracy convictions, as well as their mandatory life sentences. Defendants raised several additional appellate contentions which the court also rejected. Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions and sentences of each of the defendants. View "United States v. Dire; United States v. Ali; United States v. Umar; United States v. Gurewardher; United States v. Hasan" on Justia Law
Aggarao, Jr. v. Mol Ship Mgmt. Co.
Plaintiff, a citizen of the Philippines, brought suit against defendants for damages arising from severe injuries he sustained aboard the M/V Asian Spirit in the Chesapeake Bay near Baltimore. Plaintiff's complaint alleged multiple clams against defendants, including unseaworthiness, maintenance and cure, breach of contract, violation of the Seaman's Wage Act, 46 U.S.C. 10313(i), and negligence under general maritime law and the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 30104. The court affirmed the district court's judgment that the Arbitration Clause at issue was enforceable and that plaintiff must arbitrate his claims against defendants in the Philippines. Nevertheless, the court vacated the dismissal of the case and remanded for reinstatement thereof, for assessment of the injunction request, for entry of a stay pending arbitration to ensure that plaintiff would have an opportunity at the award-enforcement stage for judicial review of his public policy defense based on the prospective waiver doctrine, and for such other and further proceedings. View "Aggarao, Jr. v. Mol Ship Mgmt. Co." on Justia Law