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In re Fleet

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

October 12, 2017

IN RE MAGNOLIA FLEET

         SECTION: “H” (1)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Limitation Petitioners' Motion for Summary Judgment on all claims by Carl Swafford (Doc. 93). For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         This action arises out of an incident on December 30, 2015 in which the M/V PINTAIL capsized, allegedly causing the death of James D. Swafford. On June 30, 2016, Magnolia Fleet, L.L.C., as Owner, and River Construction, Inc., as Operator, of the M/V PINTAIL (collectively, “Petitioners”) filed a Complaint for Exoneration or Limitation of Liability. On July 12, 2016, this Court issued a stay of the prosecution of any proceedings outside of the limitation action. Claimants Carla Guileyardo, Jeffrey Jenkins, American Longshore Mutual Association, Ltd., and Carl Swafford answered with claims in this matter.

         In the instant Motion, Petitioners seek dismissal of all claims by Carl Swafford (“Swafford”), the decedent's father. Swafford has brought claims for loss of future earnings, mental and emotional pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of love and affection, punitive damages, and pecuniary damages. Petitioners allege that Swafford cannot recover any of these damages, and therefore his claims must be dismissed.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         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.”[1] A genuine issue of fact exists only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”[2]

         In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court views facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor.[3] “If the moving party meets the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence or designate specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.”[4] Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-movant “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case.”[5] “In response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate the manner in which that evidence supports that party's claim, and such evidence must be sufficient to sustain a finding in favor of the non-movant on all issues as to which the non-movant would bear the burden of proof at trial.”[6] “We do not . . . in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.”[7] Additionally, “[t]he mere argued existence of a factual dispute will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion.”[8]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Survival Damages

         Petitioners first seek dismissal of Swafford's claim for survival damages. Damages for the decedent's pre-death pain and suffering are “recoverable as survival damages to the decedent's estate under both the Jones Act and general maritime law.”[9] Under both the Jones Act and general maritime law, however, “only the personal representative of a decedent's estate has standing to sue for survival damages.”[10] It is undisputed that Swafford is not the representative of the decedent's estate.[11] He therefore does not have standing to recover survival damages, and those claims are dismissed.

         B. Wrongful Death

         Next, Petitioners seek dismissal of Swafford's claim for wrongful death damages. It is well settled that a parent of a Jones Act seaman killed in service of a vessel can only recover wrongful death damages if the seaman is not survived by a child or spouse.[12] Here, the decedent is survived by a child. Accordingly, Swafford is ...


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