United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
VANE LINE BUNKERING, INC.
NATALIE D M/V, ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS
E. FALLON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff's motion for partial summary
judgment on liability. R. Doc. 24. Defendants oppose the
motion. R. Doc. 14. Having considered the parties'
arguments, submissions, and applicable law, the Court now
issues this Order and Reasons.
case arises from an allision that occurred on the Kenner Bend
anchorage in the Mississippi River in March 2016. R. Doc. 1.
Plaintiff Vane Line Bunkering, Inc. (“Vane
Line”), a Maryland corporation, is the owner and
operator of the towing vessel CHESAPEAKE and a tank
barge DS-509A. R. Doc. 1 at 1. Defendant Triple S Marine, LLC
(“Triple S”) is a Louisiana company that owns and
operates Defendant M/V NATALIE D, a marine towing
vessel operating in the Mississippi River. R. Doc. 1 at 1.
Defendant ABC Insurance Company is the as-yet-unnamed insurer
and underwriter of Triple S and the M/V NATALIE D.
alleges that on March 8, 2016, the M/V CHESAPEAKE
and the tank barge DS-509A had been placed in the designated
anchorage area by a federal pilot and were displaying proper
lights. The following day, around 7:00 p.m., the M/V
NATALIE D entered the anchorage area and attempted to
pass between the M/V CHESAPEAKE and another vessel,
and struck the M/V CHESAPEAKE's anchor cable and
caused it to part and setting the Vane tow adrift. At the
request of the U.S. Coast Guard, Vane Line searched for the
lost anchor and performed repairs and inspections on its
vessels. R. Doc. 1 at 3.
avers that the sole cause of the accident was the negligence
of Triple S and the M/V NATALIE D. R. Doc. 1 at 3.
Plaintiff alleges that it sustained $46, 238.39, plus survey
fees and expenses, in damage. R. Doc. 1 at 4. Defendant
Triple S timely responded to the complaint, generally denying
all allegations. R. Doc. 4. Triple S further asserts several
affirmative defenses, including failure to mitigate damages,
comparative fault, and failure to state a claim. R. Doc. 4 at
1. Triple S also filed a counterclaim against Vane Line,
alleging the Vane Line is liable for the collision because
its vessels were improperly moored. R. Doc. 4 at 2. Triple S
avers that its tug was damaged in the incident and seeks
monetary compensations for damages and loss of use. R. Doc. 4
now seeks summary judgment on liability.
bases its motion on The Oregon Rule, which presumes
that a moving vessel is at fault when it allides with a
stationary object. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Triple S
cannot rebut this legal presumption of fault by a
preponderance of the evidence because the record indicates
that Triple S was at fault and that the allision could have
been avoided. Plaintiff claims that the Vane tow was properly
lighted and placed inside the designated anchorage area by an
experienced federal pilot and remained in the designated area
until the time of the allision. Plaintiff further suggests
that its vessels were not obstructing the Mississippi's
navigable channel. Moreover, Plaintiff states that the Vane
tow did not change position after being placed in anchorage
and displayed proper lights until the time of the allision.
Plaintiff notes that the Triple S's and the NATALIE
D's vessel logs do not contain any indication of
reports of the Vane tow being improperly anchored on March 8
and 9, 2016 - either from vessels transiting the area or from
the U.S. Coast Guard's Vessel Tracking Center located in
New Orleans. Instead, Plaintiff argues it is undisputed that
the NATALIE D and her tow attempted to cross the
anchorage area between the anchored Vane tow and another
vessel anchored upriver, came too close to and allided with
the Vane tow's anchor wire.
judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c));
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 (5th Cir. 2008).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), the moving party bears
the initial burden of “informing the district court of
the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of
[the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322. When the moving party has met its Rule 56(c)
burden, “[t]he non-movant cannot avoid summary judgment
. . . by merely making ‘conclusory allegations' or
‘unsubstantiated assertions.'” Calbillo
v. Cavender Oldsmobile, Inc., 288 F.3d 721, 725 (5th
Cir. 2002) (quoting Little, 37 F.3d at 1075).
“The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in
support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient;
there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably
find for the plaintiff.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 253 (1986). All reasonable
inferences are drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, but a
party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory
allegations or unsubstantiated assertions. Little,
37 F.3d at 1075. A court ultimately must be satisfied that
“a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Delta, 530 F.3d at 399.