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Slatten, LLC v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

October 30, 2014

SLATTEN, LLC, et al.
v.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD., et al.

ORDER AND REASONS

SARAH S. VANCE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Bouchard Transportation Co., Inc. moves for summary judgment against defendants Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and United Bulk Terminals Davant, L.L.C., as well as third-party defendants Marquette Transportation Company Gulf-Inland, LLC, and Beverley Navigation, Inc. and Pleiades Shipping Agents, S.A. (collectively, "Beverley").[1] Royal Caribbean joins Bouchard's motion in part.[2]

For the following reasons, the Court denies Bouchard and Royal Caribbean's motions.

I. Background

This consolidated maritime action arises out of a breakaway incident on the lower Mississippi River in the early morning hours of January 26, 2013. Before the breakaway, the tugboat ALLISON S was moored to a number of Marquette's barges at UBT's fleeting facility in Davant, Louisiana. Sometime after 3:00 A.M., the barges and the ALLISON S broke loose from their mooring and drifted downstream. The ALLISON S allided with the anchored vessel HIGH STRENGTH, which caused the ALLISON S to sustain damage and its crew to allegedly suffer personal injuries. In addition, several of the breakaway barges struck and damaged the B. No. 275, an anchored barge belonging to Bouchard.

The parties dispute the cause of the breakaway. Slatten, LLC, the owner of the ALLISON S, and Bisso Towboat Company, Inc., the owner pro hac vice of the ALLISON S (collectively, "Slatten"), commenced this action against defendant Royal Caribbean.[3] Slatten alleges that on January 26, 2013 Royal Caribbean's cruise ship, the NAVIGATOR OF THE SEAS ("NAVIGATOR"), overtook the NESTOS, an oil tanker owned and/or operated by Beverley, in the Mississippi River in the area of UBT's fleeting facility. Slatten contends that the NAVIGATOR traveled at a speed greater than 14 knots as it overtook the NESTOS and that the wake and suction that the NAVIGATOR generated as it passed the fleeting facility caused the breakaway of the ALLISON S and the barges.[4]

Royal Caribbean made UBT, Marquette and Beverley third-party defendants to Slatten's claims, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 14(c).[5] Royal Caribbean alleges that the breakaway was caused by the negligence of UBT and/or Marquette in failing to provide adequate moorings to secure the fleet.[6] It further argues that, to the extent that wake and suction generated by the NAVIGATOR contributed to the breakaway, Beverley, too, is liable, because wake and suction from the NESTOS, as well as "the actions of the NESTOS, " were contributing causes.[7]

Bouchard filed a separate suit against Royal Caribbean and UBT, alleging liability for damage to its barge.[8] The Court consolidated Bouchard's suit with Slatten's suit.[9] Royal Caribbean then made Marquette, Slatten and Beverley third-party defendants to Bouchard's claims under Rule 14(c).[10]

Three crew members of the ALLISON S, Mark Blancq, Anthony Fortier, and Kirkland Hutson, intervened in the suit.[11] They allege that Royal Caribbean is liable for injuries they suffered when the ALLISON S allided with the HIGH STRENGTH.[12] Royal Caribbean made Slatten, UBT, Marquette and Beverley third-party defendants to the crew members' claims under Rule 14(c).[13]

Beverley moved for summary judgment on all claims against it. The Court denied Beverley's motion on August 22, 2014, finding that genuine issues of material fact remained as to whether the NESTOS caused or contributed to the breakaway.[14]

Bouchard now moves for summary judgment.[15] It argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on the issue of liability as to all of the defendants.[16] Royal Caribbean joins Bouchard's motion to the extent it applies to UBT and Marquette, and otherwise opposes the motion.[17] UBT, Marquette, and Beverley also oppose the motion.[18]

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is warranted when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). When assessing whether a dispute as to any material fact exists, the Court considers "all of the evidence in the record but refrains from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence." Delta & Pine Land Co. v. Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co., 530 F.3d 395, 398-399 (5th Cir. 2008). The Court must draw reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, but "unsupported allegations or affidavits setting forth ultimate or conclusory facts and conclusions of law' are insufficient to either support or defeat a motion for summary judgment." Galindo v. Precision Am. Corp., 754 F.2d 1212, 1216 (5th Cir. 1985) (quoting 10B Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil ยง 2738 (2d ed. 1983)).

If the dispositive issue is one on which the moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party "must come forward with evidence that would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial." Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1264-65 (5th Cir. 1991) (quotation marks removed). The nonmoving party can then defeat the motion by either countering with sufficient evidence of its own, or "showing that the moving party's evidence ...


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