United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division
IN RE CF, LLC as operator and pro hac vice owner of the M/V LISA ANN
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KATHLEEN KAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the court is a Motion to Dismiss filed pursuant to Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) by claimants
Durward and Penny LeBleu, relating to the complaint for
exoneration or limitation of liability filed by CF, LLC. Doc.
4. CF opposes the motion. Doc. 11. Claimant LeBlanc Marine,
LLC has also filed a memorandum supporting CF's arguments
in opposition. Doc. 16.
matter relates to an alleged accident involving the M/V LISA
ANN on or about October 10, 2017. Doc. 1, ¶ 6. On that
date the vessel was transporting Durward LeBleu, an employee
of Sitech LA, LLC, to a vessel located at a remote work site
in Cameron Parish, Louisiana. Id. The vessel
allegedly struck an underwater obstruction and ran up onto
the bank, causing injuries to LeBleu. Id. LeBleu and
his wife, Penny, filed suit in the 38th Judicial District
Court, Cameron Parish, Louisiana, against CF; Leblanc Marine,
LLC; Patriot Construction and Equipment, LLC; and Grant
Guidry, an individual. Doc. 4, att. 2. They asserted that the
accident was caused by Guidry's negligence in operating
the vessel and that either LeBlanc, Patriot, and/or CF is his
employer and therefore vicariously liable for that
negligence. Id. at p. 2, ¶¶ 5, 7. They
also maintain that the vessel was owned by LeBlanc, Patriot,
and/or CF, and that one or more of these parties is liable
for failing to insure the vessel's seaworthiness and
provide a reasonably trained operator. Id. at p. 2,
answered the complaint, in relevant part, by issuing a
general denial to these allegations. Doc. 4, att. 3, p. 2,
¶¶ 6-7. It then filed the instant action in this
court on February 7, 2019, asserting that it is the operator
and pro hac vice owner of the M/V LISA ANN. Doc. 1. Here CF
raises claims for exoneration and limitation of liability
under the Limitation Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30501, as well as
an admiralty and maritime claim under the meaning of Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 9(h). Id. Accordingly, it
asserts federal subject matter jurisdiction through the
court's original jurisdiction over admiralty and maritime
claims, 28 U.S.C. § 1333. Id.
LeBleus now move to dismiss the suit under Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), asserting that CF
failed to plead facts necessary to support its claim of pro
hac vice ownership of the vessel and that the court therefore
lacks subject matter jurisdiction over its claims. CF
maintains that its potential liability as Guidry's
employer, a status to which it “freely admits” in
its opposition to this motion, and its alleged bareboat
charter agreement with LeBlanc Marine provide the necessary
support for its jurisdictional assertions. Doc. 11, pp. 4-5.
Law & Application
LeBleus are attempting to invalidate CF's claim of
subject matter jurisdiction by first attacking the
sufficiency of the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) and then,
after effectively using that motion to strike factual
allegations supporting the claim of jurisdiction, moving for
dismissal based on a lack of jurisdiction. As CF notes,
however, the court's jurisdiction arises from admiralty
jurisdiction rather than the Limitation Act. Guillory v.
Outboard Motor Corp., 956 F.2d 114, 115 (5th Cir. 1992).
To invoke admiralty jurisdiction, a party is only required to
show that the alleged incident occurred on navigable waters
and bears “a significant relationship to traditional
maritime activity.” Exec. Jet Aviation, Inc. v.
City of Cleveland, 93 S.Ct. 493, 504 (1972). The LeBleus
do not present any argument to invalidate this court's
subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1333.
Instead, they attempt to show that CF cannot assert a claim
under the Limitation Act because it has not shown that it is
owner of the M/V LISA ANN. Accordingly, the motion is
properly construed under Rule 12(b)(6). Because the motion
relies on discovery from the state court case and CF also
relies on evidence outside of the complaint in its
opposition, the court construes the motion as one for summary
judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d); Fowler v. S. Bell
Tel. & Tel. Co., 343 F.2d 150, 153 (5th Cir. 1965).
argues that summary judgment is premature, given that
discovery has just begun and no depositions have been taken.
Accordingly, it requests that consideration of the motion be
stayed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d). The court
agrees that the LeBleus' factual challenge to CF's
ownership status is premature. Rather than leave the matter
pending, however, it will recommend that the Motion to
Dismiss be denied, without prejudice to the LeBleus'
right to assert their claim through a motion for summary
judgment. To this end we note that nothing in our February
12, 2019, order restraining prosecution of claims against CF
[doc. 2] prevents either party from engaging in the discovery
necessary to establish or challenge vessel ownership for the
purposes of litigating this limitation action.
reasons stated above, IT IS RECOMMENDED that
the Motion to Dismiss [doc. 4] be DENIED,
without prejudice to any party's ability to present these
claims through a Motion for Summary Judgment.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C) and Rule 72(b) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the parties have fourteen
(14) days from receipt of this Report and Recommendation to
file written objections with the Clerk of Court. Failure to
file written objections to the proposed factual findings
and/or the proposed legal conclusions reflected in this
Report and Recommendation within fourteen (14) days of
receipt shall bar an aggrieved party from attacking either
the factual findings or the legal conclusions accepted by the
District Court, except upon grounds of plain error. See
Douglass v. United Services Automobile Ass'n, 79
F.3d 1415, 1429-30 (5th Cir. 1996).