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In re Double C. Marine LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

April 3, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF DOUBLE C MARINE, LLC, AS BAREBOAT CHARTERER AND OPERATOR AND BARBARA ANN, LLC, AS OWNER OF THE M/V CAROLINE G., PETITIONING FOR EXONERATION FROM DAMAGES OR FOR LIMITATION OF LIABILITY IN THE MATTER OF ANDERS OFFSHORE, LLC AS THE OWNER OF THE ANDERS ELEVATOR, PETITIONING FOR EXONERATION FROM OR LIMITATION OF LIABILITY IN THE MATTER OF ANDERS OFFSHORE, LLC AS THE OWER OF THE ANDERS ELEVATOR, PETITIONING FOR EXONERATION FROM OR LIMITATION OF LIABILITY

          WHITEHURST MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          REBECCA F. DOHERTY JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Motion to Dissolve the Limitation Injunctions [Doc, 74] filed by the claimant in limitation, Paul Jones ("Jones"), in the captioned consolidated limitation proceedings. The motion is opposed by petitioners in limitation Anders Offshore, LLC ("Anders"), Double C Marine, LLC ("Double C"), and Barbara Ann, LLC ("Barbara Ann") [Docs. 75 & 76]. Paul Jones has filed a Motion for Leave to File a Reply Brief [Doc. 77], which is herein GRANTED. For the following reasons, the Motion to Dissolve the Limitation Injunctions is DENIED.

         I. Factual History

         The facts pertinent to the instant motion are undisputed. This matter arises out of an allision that occurred on or about January 28, 2014 between the ANDERS ELEVATOR, a liftboat owned by Anders, and a barge in the tow of the M/V CAROLINE G, a vessel owned by Barbara Aim and chartered by Double C. Claimant Paul Jones, who was working aboard the ANDERS ELEVATOR at the time of the allision, claims to have sustained physical injury.[1]

         II. Procedural History

         As a result of the allision, on April 7, 2014, Jones filed a Jones Act and general maritime personal injury case against Double C, Barbara Ann, and Anders in Louisiana state court pursuant to the "savings to suitors" clause, [2] 28 U.S.C. §1333, and demanded a jury trial pursuant to 46 U.S.C. §30104.

         Thereafter, two limitations proceedings were filed in this Court. On July 9, 2014, Double C, as operator/bareboat charterer, and Barbara Ann, as owner of the M/V CAROLINE G, filed a Complaint for Exoneration or Limitation of Liability (hereinafter the "Double C Limitation").[3]Pursuant to 46 U.S.C. §30501 et seq., and Rule F of the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims, this Court entered an Order directing "all persons asserting claims with respect to which the Complaint seeks exoneration or limitation.. .to file their respective claims with the Clerk of Court, in writing, ... on or before January 16, 2015, or be defaulted., . "[4] Thereafter, on July 28, 2014, Anders filed a Verified Complaint for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability (hereinafter the "Anders Offshore Limitation").[5] On September 4, 2014, this Court executed an Order admonishing "all persons asserting claims with respect to which the Complaint seeks exoneration or limitation.. .to file their respective claims with the Clerk of Court, in writing, ... on or before March 4, 2015, or be defaulted..."[6]

         On April 9, 2015, the two limitations proceedings were consolidated in this Court.

         Prior to consolidation, Anders and Jones filed claims in the Double C Limitation. Jones sought damages for personal injury, [7] while Anders asserted two distinct claims: (1) a property damage claim associated with the incident; and (2) a claim for "indemnity and/or contribution and/or recover over from Double C and/or Barbara Ann, LLC for any judgment rendered or any settlement reached in favor of Paul Jones, together with all maintenance and cure, costs, expenses, and attorney's fees incurred in connection with the prosecution of the complaint against Double C Marine, LLC and/or Barbara Ann, LLC and/or the defense of any claim filed by Paul Jones.[8]

         Additionally, Jones, Double C, and Barbara Ann filed claims for damages in the Anders Offshore Limitation. Specifically, Jones asserted claims for damages, maintenance and cure, and punitive damages.[9] Double C and Barbara Ann filed claims for any damages to either the M/V CAROLINE G or its tow as a result of the allision, as well as a claim for contribution and/or indemnity against Anders for any damages arising out the incident.[10] In response, Anders answered these claims reiterating that any alleged damages were caused solely by the actions and inactions of the M/V CAROLINE G, Double C, and Barbara Ann.

         Prior to the filing of the instant motion to dissolve, Anders settled its property damage claim against Double C and Barbara Ann, and an order dismissing Anders' claim was issued by this Court on January 29, 2016 [Doc. 58 in 14-2273], Thereafter, on Februaiy 5,, 2016, the parties filed a letter with the Court, wherein they stipulated as follows:

All parties agree that this remains a multi-claimant matter and that the issues of exoneration and/or limitation should be decided first. . .[11]

         Despite the filing of the aforementioned stipulation, Jones seeks to dissolve the limitation injunctions - presumably in both limitations proceedings - on grounds the consolidated cases represent a single-claimant dispute.[12] The record is clear, however, that the litigation in question is a consolidation of two distinct limitation of liability proceedings: the limitation proceeding filed by Double C and Barbara Ann - in which Jones and Anders have filed claims - and the limitation proceeding filed by Anders in which Jones, Double C, and Barbara Ann have filed claims. While Jones acknowledges his claims against each of the limitation petitioners - as well as Anders' cross-claim for maintenance-and-cure-related contribution in the Double C Limitation - remain active, he argues Anders' claim for contribution is not subject to limitation, on grounds "a shipowner cannot limit its liability for maintenance and cure. It may bring a limitation action only in response to a finding of negligence or unseaworthiness." Brister v. A.W.I., Inc.,946F.2d350, 361 (5THCir.l991); See also In re Jillian Morrison, I.I.C, 2008 WL 4360913, at *2 (S.D. Tex. Sept, 23, 2008). Jones further argues he has not reached maximum medical improvement and Anders' maintenance and cure obligations remain ongoing. Jones argues until the state court jury (Jones having originally filed his personal injury claim in state court, and that claim remaining viable but stayed pursuant to statute) determines when Jones will reach ...


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