United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 6). For
the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED.
Cary Payne and Jerome Davis, filed this suit against
Defendants asserting claims that stem from a collision that
occurred on February 16, 2016. On this date, Defendants'
vessel, the M/V MISS SYLVIA, collided with a ship named the
M/V ATLANTIC GRACE. Plaintiffs allege that they were working
onboard the M/V ATLANTIC GRACE and sustained injuries in the
21, 2016, Defendants filed a Complaint for Exoneration from
or Limitation of Liability (the “Limitation
Action”). The Limitation Action sought exoneration
from liability related to the collision. Alternatively,
Defendants sought to limit any liability they may incur to
the value of the M/V MISS SYLVIA. In an order dated July 27,
2016, this Court instructed the Clerk of Court to issue a
notice requiring all persons having a claim related to the
subject matter of the Limitation Action to file a written
claim with the Clerk of Court on or before September 23, 2016
or be defaulted. The order further required that the notice
be published once a week for four successive weeks in a
newspaper of general circulation published in Louisiana.
Consistent with the order, Defendants thereafter published
the notice in the Times-Picayune.
23, 2017, Defendants moved for an order of default. Notably,
Defendants waited several months after the September 23
deadline before doing so, allowing additional time for any
late-filed claims. This Court then issued an order defaulting
all persons claiming any injuries due to the collision who
did not file timely claims.
September 27, 2018, after more than two years of litigation,
all claims asserted against Defendants were settled. On
November 26, 2018, this Court issued a final order dismissing
the Limitation Action. On February 14, 2019, Plaintiffs filed
the instant suit. In their Motion to Dismiss, Defendants seek
dismissal of Plaintiffs' complaint.
Admiralty Rule F gives a district court discretion to allow a
party to file a claim in a limitation proceeding after the
claims bar date has passed. The Fifth Circuit has held that
“so long as the limitation proceeding is pending and
undetermined, and the rights of the parties are not adversely
affected, the court will freely grant permission to file late
claims . . . upon a showing of the reasons
therefor.” Relief from a late claim is not, however,
a matter of right, and “[i]t depends upon an equitable
argue that the Limitation Action is no longer pending and
undetermined and that allowing Plaintiffs to bring claims at
this point will adversely affect Defendants in several ways.
First, it would force Defendants to litigate issues that they
had chosen to resolve through settlement. Second, it would
expose Defendants to unforeseen liability that was not
considered in reaching the settlement. Third, it would
prevent Defendants from seeking contribution from third
parties because of the terms of the settlement.
response, Plaintiffs argue that they have good cause for the
delay because they were never notified of the pending
limitation action. Plaintiffs contend that they obtained
counsel immediately after the collision, notified their
employer, and filed workers' compensation claims.
Plaintiffs further argue that the discovery obtained by
Defendants in the Limitation Action should have placed them
on notice that Plaintiffs were potential claimants.
cite to an Eastern District of Louisiana case, In re
Global Industries Offshore, that is on
point. The plaintiff therein sought to bring a
claim for injuries sustained in an accident after the
limitation proceeding had been settled and
closed. He alleged that he should have been given
actual notice of the limitation proceeding because his
identity as a passenger on the vessel was readily
ascertainable. Judge Barbier held that the limitation
petitioner had no notice that the plaintiff was injured in
the collision and that it complied with Rule F(4) by giving
actual notice to those who had asserted a claim and by
publishing notice in the local newspaper. Judge Barbier
held that in “the absence of anything to suggest bad
faith” on the part of the limitation petitioner, the
request to file a late claim was denied.
Rule F(4) requires only that notice shall be given “to
all persons asserting claims with respect to which the
complaint seeks limitation” and “published in
such newspaper or newspapers as the court may direct once a
week for four successive weeks prior to the date fixed for
the filing of claims.” Defendants here complied with
this requirement. Nothing in the record suggests that they
were aware of Plaintiffs' injuries or claims. Nor is
there anything in the record suggesting that Defendants acted
with bad faith. ...