Articles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law

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The Chincoteague Inn constructed a floating platform secured alongside its building to be used as part of the Inn’s restaurant. The platform was situated partially over state-owned submerged lands. In an enforcement action, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission directed removal of a portion of the platform. The circuit court set aside the Commission’s decision and dismissed with prejudice the Commission’s enforcement action, finding that the Commission lacked jurisdiction to require removal of the floating platform. A panel of the court of appeals reversed, holding that under the facts of this case, federal maritime law did not preempt the Commission’s authority to order the removal of the floating platform over state-owned submerged lands. The court of appeals then granted the Inn’s petition for a rehearing en banc, vacated the panel opinion, and affirmed the circuit court’s determination that the Commission lacked jurisdiction over the floating platform. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in interpreting the scope of the Commission’s authority under Va. Code Ann. 28.2-1203(A); and (2) because the court of appeals’ en banc opinion did not address the issue of federal preemption, that issue remained outstanding. Remanded. View "Va. Marine Res. Comm’n v. Chincoteague Inn" on Justia Law

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Rubert Minton suffered injuries as a result of developing mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos while working on Exxon Mobile Corporation (Exxon) ships during his employment at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company (Shipyard). Minton filed suit against Exxon under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) for failure to warn Minton of, and protect him from, the dangers associated with asbestos. The jury found in favor of Minton and awarded him compensatory damages, medical expenses, and punitive damages. Exxon appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) the circuit court erred in refusing to admit relevant evidence regarding the Shipyard's knowledge of the danger of asbestos exposure and its ability to remedy the danger; and (2) the award of $12,500,000 in punitive damages was inappropriately granted because punitive damages are a remedy prohibited by the terms of LHWCA. View "Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Minton" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury action, Plaintiff sued Employer under the Jones Act for an injury to his back sustained in the course of his employment with Employer as a crew member aboard a commercial fishing vessel. Plaintiff's ultimate negligence liability theory at trial was that Employer breached its duty of care by not obtaining an MRI as part of his pre-employment physical. The trial court awarded damages to Plaintiff upon a jury verdict. The Supreme Court reversed and entered final judgment in favor of Employer, holding that, as a matter of law, there was no evidence of causation presented in the trial of Plaintiff's negligence claim against Employer under the Jones Act. View "Omega Protein, Inc. v. Forrest" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Decedent's wife and estate, filed suit under general maritime law against John Crane, Inc. (JCI) seeking compensatory and punitive damages, alleging that Decedent, a former seaman, was exposed to asbestos contained in products manufactured by JCI and that he contracted mesothelioma as a result of such exposure. Plaintiffs' third amended complaint included revived personal injury survival claims - which sought damages for Decedent's pre-death pain and suffering - and Plaintiffs' wrongful death claims. A jury awarded $2 million in damages for Decedent's pre-death pain and suffering. The Supreme Court vacated the award. Plaintiffs petitioned for a rehearing, which the Court granted. The Court then reinstated the award and modified its opinion, holding that because the Jones Act permits recovery for the losses suffered during a decedent seaman's lifetime in a survival action, including pre-death pain and suffering, Decedent's estate may recover for his pre-death pain and suffering under general maritime law. View "John Crane, Inc. v. Hardick" on Justia Law

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Seaman filed this action to recover maintenance and cure and compensatory and punitive damages from his former employer (Employer), claiming that he suffered PTSD and depression as a result of being gang-raped by uniformed Korean police officers while he was on shore leave from Employer's ship docked in Korea. The jury awarded Seaman $20,000,000 in compensatory damages and $5,000,000 in punitive damages. The circuit court granted Employer's motion for partial summary judgment precluding Seaman's denial of maintenance and cure, set aside the punitive damages award, and remitted the compensatory damages award to $2,000,000. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial on all issues relating to the seaworthiness and Jones Act claims regarding Employer's actions after Seaman returned to the ship, and Seaman's claim for maintenance and cure benefits, holding (1) the circuit court erred by not ordering a new trial after concluding that the maintenance and cure claim for compensatory and punitive damages should not have been submitted to the jury; and (2) the circuit court erred in refusing the instruction proffered by Employer quoting the circuit court's pre-trial ruling on the Jones Act and seaworthiness claims, and the refusal was not harmless. View "Hale v. Maersk Line Ltd." on Justia Law