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Bulker v. United Bulk Terminals Davant LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 28, 2017

M/V ADMIRAL BULKER
v.
UNITED BULK TERMINALS DAVANT LLC ET AL.

         SECTION: “H” (1)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are United Bulk Terminals Davant, LLC's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 16), Camellia Maritime S.A.'s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 19), and M/V ADMIRAL BULKER's Motion to Dismiss or Alternatively for Summary Judgment (Doc. 26). For the following reasons, United Bulk Terminals Davant, LLC's and Camellia Maritime S.A.'s Motions to Dismiss are GRANTED. ADMIRAL BULKER's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         This consolidated matter arises out of the breakaway of a fleet of barges operated by United Bulk Terminals Davant, LLC (“UBT”). On January 20, 2016, at approximately 12:30 p.m. twenty two barges broke away from their moorings at the UBT facility and many drifted into the Mississippi River, blocking navigation. The river was near its maximum height on the day of the incident. The M/V Q JAKE, owned by Q JAKE Shipping (“Q JAKE”), and M/V SERENA P, owned by SERENA P Stefan Patjens (“SERENA P”), were in navigation on the river at the time of the breakaway and were unable to avoid colliding with the drifting barges. The breakaway barges also drifted downriver and struck the anchored M/V OCEAN TOMO. The breakaway barges were owned by Ingram Barge Company (“Ingram”), Canal Barge Company (“Canal Barge”), or Marquette Transportation Company (“Marquette”).

         In their Complaint, Q JAKE and SERENA P allege that two ships passed the UBT facility prior to the breakaway at an excessive speed and insufficient distance, causing the incident. Specifically, they allege that at 11:50 a.m. the ADMIRAL BULKER, owned by Eurex Bulker S.A. (“Eurex”), passed the UBT facility and at 12:25 p.m. the KOKUKA GLORIOUS (“KOKUKA”), operated by Camellia Maritime S. A. (“Camellia”), passed the UBT facility.

         Prior to the institution of this action, UBT demanded security from the ADMIRAL BULKER, believing it to be the responsible party. Q JAKE, SERENA P, the M/V OCEAN TOMO, and Ingram followed suit and demanded security in the form of Letters of Undertaking (“LOU”) from the ADMIRAL BULKER. The ADMIRAL BULKER ultimately provided security of nearly $4 million to avoid its arrest.

         The ADMIRAL BULKER alleges that this is a case of mistaken identity and that the KOKUKA is at fault for causing the breakaway. It alleges that because it passed the UBT facility forty minutes before the breakaway, it cannot have been at fault. The ADMIRAL BULKER also argues that UBT negligently moored and secured its fleet, especially in light of the usually high river. On November 9, 2016, Eurex filed a “Verified Complaint and Rule 14 Tender” on behalf of ADMIRAL BULKER in rem against UBT, the KOKUKA, and its owners (“the ADMIRAL BULKER Action”). Thereafter, on December 22, 2016, Q JAKE and SERENA P filed an action against UBT, Marquette, Canal Barge, Ingram, the ADMIRAL BULKER and her owner, Eurex, and the KOKUKA and her owner, Camellia (“the Q JAKE and SERENA P Action”). The two actions were consolidated.

         In the Q JAKE and SERENA P Action, the parties have brought several cross-claims: UBT, Marquette, and Canal Barge have brought cross-claims against the ADMIRAL BULKER and her owner, Eurex, and the KOKUKA and her owner, Camellia. Ingram has brought a cross-claim against UBT, the ADMIRAL BULKER, Eurex, the KOKUKA, and Camellia. Camellia has brought a cross-claim against UBT, Marquette, ADMIRAL BULKER, and Eurex. Eurex has brought a cross-claim against UBT, the KOKUKA, and Camellia. In addition, the owner of the M/V OCEAN TOMO has intervened in the action.

         Before the Court are three Motions to Dismiss. In the first two, UBT and Camellia move for dismissal of the ADMIRAL BULKER Action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. In the third, ADMIRAL BULKER moves for dismissal, or in the alternative summary judgment, of all of the claims and cross-claims against it in the Q JAKE and SERENA P Action. This Court will consider each argument in turn.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead enough facts “to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.”[1] A claim is “plausible on its face” when the pleaded facts allow the court to “draw reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”[2]A court must accept the complaint's factual allegations as true and must “draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.”[3] The court need not, however, accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations.[4] To be legally sufficient, a complaint must establish more than a “sheer possibility” that the plaintiff's claims are true.[5] If it is apparent from the face of the complaint that an insurmountable bar to relief exists and the plaintiff is not entitled to relief, the court must dismiss the claim.[6] The court's review is limited to the complaint and any documents attached to the motion to dismiss that are central to the claim and referenced by the complaint.[8]

         B. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         A Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenges the subject matter jurisdiction of a federal district court. “A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case.”[9] In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, the court may rely on (1) the complaint alone, presuming the allegations to be true, (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts, or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts and by the court's resolution of disputed facts.[10] The proponent of federal court jurisdiction-in this case, the Plaintiff- bears the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction.[11]

         C. Motion for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”[12] A genuine issue of fact exists only “if the ...


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