HomeCircuit Court Admiralty CasesDamages

The following are digests and case links to Circuit Court Admiralty Cases that have as an issue damages:

South Port Marine v. Gulf Oil Ltd.
First Circuit Court of Appeals
December 7, 2000

Admiralty Jurisdiction: plaintiff's floating docks that were damaged by an oil spill were extensions of the land and hence a tort that causes damage to them does not occur wholly on navigable waters and therefore constitutes an action at law, rather than in admiralty; OPA 90/Jury Trial: although the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) does not create a statutory right to a jury trial, plaintiff has a Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial of its claims under the Act since they are analogous to causes of action at common law, rather than causes of action in admiralty; Punitive Damages: punitive damages are not available under OPA for marine pollution claims, nor are they available under the general maritime law in view of the enactment of OPA, which has supplanted the existing maritime law of punitive damages in cases of marine pollution.

Diefenbach v. Sheridan Transportation
First Circuit Court of Appeals
October 6, 2000

Experts: the district court did not abuse its discretion when it allowed plaintiff's expert witness to present expert testimony concerning docking and undocking procedures since the witness had the knowledge, skill, experience, training and education to qualify him as an expert and his testimony assisted the trier of fact to better understand the case; Damages: defendant's motion for remittitur on the grounds that the jury awarded excessive damages was properly denied since there was sufficient supporting evidence introduced regarding the plaintiff's injury, his inability to earn a living and the pain and suffering he experienced, is experiencing and will experience in the future; Jury Trials: defendant failed to request that the jury be instructed to reduce lost wages to present value and that any award is not subject to taxes, thus the district court's failure to so instruct is not reversible error.

New York Marine & General Insurance Co. v. Tradeline
Second Circuit Court of Appeals
September 28, 2001

Marine Insurance: the policyholder and cargo seller had been authorized by the cargo underwriter to issue certificates of insurance to its customers under an open cargo policy, thus it acted as the underwriter's agent in issuing the certificates; the prediction of severe rainy weather at the discharge port was a material fact that would have affected the underwriter's decision whether to issue extended coverage under the policy for rainwater damage and thus had to be disclosed under the doctrine of uberrimae fidae; the buyer's disclosure of that weather prediction to the policyholder/cargo seller (but not to the underwriter) before coverage was extended was sufficient since the policy holder/cargo seller was the underwriter's agent, thus the extended coverage was not void based on the doctrine of uberrimaefidae; Damages: the buyer could not recover under the extended coverage for cargo that had been deposited from lightering barges onto the shore area and was washed away as a result of rising tides and tidal waves and for other cargo that was damaged by the cyclone on shore because coverage terminated once the cargo had been delivered to "any other warehouse of place of storage" and was no longer in the "ordinary course of transit"; Clause 12 of the Institute Cargo Clauses (C)did not cover the extra charges incurred in unloading, storing and forwarding the cargo to its destination since this resulted from the closing of the discharge port, which was not a risk covered under the policy; the district court properly refused to award attorneys' fees to the assureds because the underwriter did not act in bad faith in denying the claim or in instituting the declaratory action; the district court did not abuse its broad discretion with respect to prejudgment interest by applying the United States Treasury Bill rate, rather than the 17% rate urged by cargo interests.

Project Hope v. Neptune Orient Lines
Second Circuit Court of Appeals
May 4, 2001

Carriage of Goods: the district court properly found that the land carrier of a shipment from Winchester, Virginia to Egypt via the port of Norfolk, Virginia was jointly and severally liable for cargo damage pursuant to the Carmack Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 14706; Damages: damages under the Carmack Amendment should generally be based on the fair market value, but they need not be if circumstances suggest a more appropriate alternative, which in this case was properly the replacement cost of the damaged goods.

Chisholm v. UHP Products, Inc.
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
March 8, 2000

Damages: the Supreme Court's decision in McDermott is held not applicable in situations where the liable parties are not joint tort-feasors, thus the injured plaintiff is not entitled to jury verdict of $90,000 against one liable party since he had previously settled his claim against another liable party for an amount greater than the jury verdict.

Karim v. Finch Shipping
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
September 5, 2001

Procedure (Jurisdiction)/Limitation of Liability: the shipowner waived its jurisdictional defense where it voluntarily provided the district court inrem jurisdiction by commencing the limitation proceeding and placing the res, or the bond, in the hands of the court, and where it invoked the powers of the court to require the plaintiff seaman to halt his proceeding in another forum and to file in the limitation action; Procedure (Forum Non Conveniens): the relevant private and public interest factors under Gulf Oil/Piper Aircraft, such as Plaintiff receiving medical treatment in the United States, evidence and testimony being easily accessible in this forum, counsel for both parties being based in this forum, and the fact that United States limitation law applied, weighed against dismissal; Choice of Law: the district court did not err in making a determination of quantum of personal injury damages under Bangladeshi law by applying English and Indian precedent since experts informed the court that Bangladeshi courts would look to Indian and British cases for guidance where their precedents were lacking; Damages (Prejudgment Interest): the award of prejudgment interest is discretionary (both under Bangladeshi and United States law) and the district court did not abuse its discretion in setting the initial date of the interest accrual to be the date the limitation action was reactivated in federal court, rather than the date of injury. 

Reserve Mooring v. American Commercial Barge Line
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
May 16, 2001

Maritime Torts/Damages: physical injury to a proprietary interest is a prerequisite to recovery of economic damages in cases of an unintentional maritime tort, thus because plaintiff's mooring facility suffered no physical injury when a wreck blocked its use, its claim for purely economic damages must be denied.

BP North America v. Solar ST
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
May 14, 2001

Carriage of Goods/Damages: BP's futures trading in the diesel oil market after it discovered its diesel oil cargo was damaged is inapposite to a "market value" damages calculation, thus the district court should simply have calculated BP's damages as the difference between the market value of sound oil on the date of discharge and an estimated market valuation of the contaminated oil on the date of discharge.

American River Trans Co. v. Kavo Kaliakra S.S.
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
March 8, 2000

Damages: the Robins Dry Dock rule bars recovery for economic damages in negligence unconnected to an injury to a property interest, thus Longshore employer has no claim against tort-feasor for increased insurance costs associated with compensation payments to its injured employees. 

ConAgra Inc. v. Indian River Towing Co.
Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
June 8, 2001

Damages: proving loss-of-use damages in an admiralty case involves two elements: first, a vessel owner must prove that profits have actually been, or may be reasonably supposed to have been, lost; and second, the amount of lost profits must be proven with reasonable certainty; the owner of a fleet of barges in this case met this burden by showing that there was a ready market for its barges and that it had no spare barges available to substitute for the damaged barges; Damages (Prejudgment Interest): prejudgment interest was properly awarded for the loss-of-use claim since it is awarded in admiralty suits to ensure full compensation for the injured party and should be granted unless there are exceptional or peculiar circumstances.

In re the EXXON VALDEZ, Baker v. Hazelwood
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
November 7, 2001

Damages (Punitive Damages): punitive damages against Exxon for the Valdez oil spill are not barred because Exxon has already been subject to criminal and civil sanctions and cleanup expenses as a result of the spill; further, admiralty law does not bar an award of punitive damages; and the Clean Water Act does not preempt a private remedy for punitive damages; the district court properly instructed the jury that it could impose punitive damages on Exxon even if all the recklessness was by its employee Captain Hazelwood rather than by Exxon itself; but, the $5 billion punitive damages award is too high to withstand review under the recent Supreme Court decisions in BMW of North America and Cooper Industries, which established three guideposts for reviewing punitive damages awards: (1) the degree of reprehensibility of the person's conduct; (2) the disparity between the harm or potential harm suffered by the victim and his punitive damage award; and (3) the difference between the punitive damage award and the civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable cases; the case is remanded to the district court to consider the constitutionality of the amount of the award in light of the guideposts established in BMW. (See also the Press Release from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concerning this decision.)

Simeonoff v. M/V Saga
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
May 8, 2001

Jones Act/Comparative Negligence: a seaman may not be held contributorily negligent for carrying out orders that result in injury, even if the seaman recognizes possible danger and does not delay to consider a safer alternative; further, a seaman who responds to a superior's urgent call for help cannot be found contributorily negligent, thus the plaintiff, who knew of the dangers when he responded to the call of assistance from the engineer in fixing a pot launcher, was not contributorily negligent when the pot launcher gave way, fell and crushed his foot; Damages: the court's economic damage award was sufficiently detailed and supported by the evidence and the court's non-economic damage award of $18,900 for pain and suffering was not inadequate, was supported by the evidence and did not shock the conscience; Damages (Prejudgment Interest): in personal injury cases under admiralty jurisdiction, prejudgment interest must be granted unless peculiar circumstances justify its denial; thus the matter of prejudgment interest would be remanded to the district court to articulate its reasons for denying that interest. 

Central State Transit & Leasing Yard Co. v. Jones Boat Yard, Inc.
Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
March 20, 2000

Damages: a pleasure boat owner is entitled to receive loss of use damages only if able to prove, with reasonable certainty, that profits had actually been, or may reasonably be supposed to have been, lost, which owner in this case was unable to do; the District Court was correct to limit the liability of the defendant to its proportionate share under McDermott even though its liability was based in contract, not tort.

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