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Showing posts from 2015

Maritime Law--South Florida Lawsuit Filed in El Faro Sinking

The first South Florida lawsuit against the owner of EL FARO, the cargo ship that sunk in Hurricane Joaquin last month, was filed on October 28, 2015 in Broward County Circuit Court. This latest lawsuit claims EL FARO's engine failure and loss of power on October 1st followed many years of lax maintenance. The lawsuit also claims EL FARO was not seaworthy in that the ship was undergoing "significant maintenance" just before it left port September 29th and had a history of losing power.

The lawsuit was brought by the widow of Anthony Thomas who seeks damages for herself and for the couple's five children, ages 8 to 29. The lawsuit states the Fort Lauderdale court has jurisdiction because Tote Maritime's registered agent is in Plantation.
This lawsuit is the fourth complaint brought against ship owner Tote Maritime since the deaths of EL FARO's 33 crew members. This latest lawsuit comes just as the Jacksonville-based company seeks to prevent future lawsuits and…

Maritime Law--Novel Rule B Attachment Rejected by Eleventh Circuit

In World Wide Supply OU v. Quail Cruises Ship Management, Case No. 14-14838 (11th Cir. Sept. 30, 2015), the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s order vacating an attachment of legal settlement funds.  At issue in this appeal was an attachment of property made pursuant to Supplemental Admiralty Rule B. This appeal had a complicated background, involving multiple lawsuits in federal district courts, Florida state court, and a Spanish bankruptcy court.

The common denominator of these suits was Quail Cruises Ship Management, from which multiple parties, including participants in the appeal, tried to collect money that they believed Quail owed them. This is not surprising, as there have been numerous cases against Quail due to a failed cruise venture they operated.

The money at issue arose from the legal settlement of a dispute over the purchase of a cruise ship featured on ABC Television Network’s long-running series, The Love Boat. The plaintiff-appellant adv…

Maritime Law--Further Easing of U.S. Cuba Sanctions Regulations

On September 18, 2015, the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Commerce announced additional revisions to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR).  The changes take effect on Monday, September 21, 2015, as published in the Federal Register. 

These measures are intended generally to do the following:  to further facilitate travel to Cuba for authorized purposes; expand the telecommunications and internet-based services general licenses, including by authorizing certain persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction (which includes individuals and entities) to establish a business presence in Cuba, such as through subsidiaries or joint ventures; allow certain persons to establish a physical presence, such as an office or other facility in Cuba to facilitate authorized transactions; allow certain persons to open and maintain bank accounts in Cuba to use for authorized purposes; authorize additional financial transactions, including those …

Maritime Law--3d DCA Allows Class Action by Doctors Against Celebrity Cruises

In Celebrity Cruises, Inc. v. Rankin, et al, No. 3D14-3137 (Fla. 3d DCA Sept. 16, 2015), Celebrity failed to stave off a class certification case filed by a group of cruise ship doctors suing the company for breach of contract. The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court decision certifying a class of about 41 doctors who claim they are owed commissions from medication sales.
The Miami-based cruise line owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. argued each doctor's understanding of the contract would overwhelm issues common to the class. The court disagreed, finding that common issues dominated individual issues because the class members were all "beneficiaries of [an] identical written contractual provision."
The order included an excerpt from Celebrity management's internal emails that stated, "According to the signed contracts, physicians' commission should be on total medical revenue (procedure and medication sales) as opposed to commission on …

Maritime Law--Uberrimae Fidei Defense Now Requires Showing of Reliance in 8th Circuit

In St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. v. Abhe & Svoboda, Inc., No. 14-2234 (8th Cir. Aug. 20, 2015), the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that reliance is an element of the defense of uberrimae fidei. Prior to Abhe, only the Second Circuit had so held. This case is extremely important to insurers and should be required reading for marine insurers and their coverage counsel. Abhe, an industrial painting contractor, used stationary leased barges as platforms while painting Pell Bridge over Narragansett Bay. Abhe changed insurance carriers three months into the project. St. Paul Fire did not request that Abhe complete an application, but accepted the application provided to its previous insurer in 2010. The attached schedule of vessels was outdated and did not include vessels leased for the Pell Bridge project. Abhe sent St. Paul an updated schedule in 2011, listing those vessels, but did not provide a 2010 survey that showed that one barge had non-watertight bulkheads. St. Paul di…

Maritime Law--Pretrial Stipulation is Trial Blueprint in Florida State Court

In Palm Beach Polo Holdings v. Broward Marine, 40 Fla. Law Weekly D1932 (Fla. 4th DCA Aug. 19, 2015), the issue of whether the underlying claim was barred by the statute of limitations was memorialized in the pretrial stipulation entered between the parties. By definition and policy, this should have been considered a matter officially at issue in dispute during the trial. However, the trial court concluded that because the relevant statute was not framed in the preliminary instructions to the jury and because the appellants did not argue it in their opening statement, the defense was not properly raised and was waived.
The Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeals disagreed. It took the opportunity to remind judges and litigators that the document upon which all parties can always rely on is the Pretrial Stipulation. The appellate court observed that any previous disputes or contentious pretrial issues become mostly irrelevant once the parties prepare and stipulate to the final a…

Maritime Law--Yacht Broker Plans First US-Cuba Voyage Charter Under New Rules

It is reported that a Palm Beach County yacht broker received a license issued by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") to operate a 78-foot yacht between the United States and Cuba. Paul Madden, a longtime luxury yacht broker with Paul Madden Associates LLC, reportedly received the license on July 1 and the vessel is already scheduled to carry and documentary filmmaker and a Wall Street Journal reporter, along with other passengers.
As previously reported in my blog, several other vessel operators have received OFAC licenses to operate to Cuba, including Carnival Cruise Lines. Cruise and ferry companies have applied for government licenses to sail to Cuba since the Obama administration restored diplomatic ties with Cuba and loosened rules for U.S. travel to the island. Carnival is the first cruise line to obtain a license, which plans to start service in May. But the 78-foot yacht will reportedly be the first vessel to sail between the United States and Cuba in…

Maritime Law--Key Biscayne Sues Again Over Miami's Plan for Marine Stadium

It is reported that less than two weeks after agreeing to try to hammer out a deal, Key Biscayne has filed a third lawsuit over Miami's plan to redevelop Virginia Key. The June 25th petition filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court is looking to push back the construction that the City of Miami is pursuing around the decaying Miami Marine Stadium.

In one corner, Miami plans to spend $16 million to turn the entrance and several vacant parcels next to the waterfront stadium into a "flex park" capable of hosting large events. Because some of the construction is on historically designated stadium grounds, the City obtained a special dispensation from the historic preservation board and the City Commission in May.
In the other corner, the Village of Key Biscayne maintains that the special dispensation was improvidently granted. The Village claims Miami officials prevented the board from hearing evidence about future uses in violation of Miami's own code. Key Biscayne also claims p…

Maritime Law--Carnival Announces Cruises from Miami to Cuba

The world's largest cruise ship operator could be heading to Cuba by May 2016. Various sources report that Carnival Corp. has received U.S. government licenses to offer "purposeful" cruises from the U.S. to Cuba for people-to-people, humanitarian and other exchanges. Carnival says it would become the first American cruise company to visit Cuba since the 1960 trade embargo. The trips will be through its new "fathom" brand, which focuses on trips where passengers sail to a destination in order to volunteer there. The weeklong cruises are reported to be aboard ADONIA, a small cruise ship which carries 710 passengers. ADONIA is relatively small for the industry, as ships sailing under the company's namesake line can carry nearly 3,000 passengers. ADONIA is a deluxe ship that offers no casino or Broadway-type shows but rather features Spanish classes and workshops on the island's art and heritage.The itinerary is still being finalized, as Carnival is awaiti…

Maritime Law--Defeating Liability Waivers Resulting in $12M Settlement

In the case of Adkinsv. Big Dipper Charters, et al.,Case No. 14-cv-10030-KlNG, the plaintiffs alleged the Florida Keys Dive Center caused the Adkins family economic and non-economic damages, including pain, suffering and past and future lost income. The Florida Keys Dive Center and its boat operator Big Dipper Charters Inc., along with the boat captain, owners and dive master, were named in the suit. The lawsuit alleged the dive master told the father and son team to "dive, dive, dive," then failed to communicate to the boat captain that there were divers in the water. The captain put the boat in reverse, and the propellers struck a boy and his father, causing severe traumatic injuries. As expected, the defense argued their clients were protected by liability waivers signed by the father for both himself and his son that are common in dive boat operator forms. The plaintiffs argued the liability release forms signed were void because they violated several provisions of fede…

Maritime--WISTA USA AGM Takes Manhattan

The WISTA USA 2015 AGM and Conference was held Friday, May 15, 2015 and hosted by the New York/New Jersey Chapter of WISTA USA. The topics discussed included Emerging Challenges Facing Shipping. A link of the notice is here => WISTA USA 2015 AGM.

For those not familiar with WISTA, the Women's International Shipping and Trading Association,  is a networking organization for women at management level in the maritime industry. WISTA mission statement holds that WISTA shall:
Facilitate the exchange of contacts, information and experiences among its members Promote and facilitate the education of its members Provide liaison with other related institutions and organizations worldwideWISTA's vision is that shall be acknowledged as a professional and highly reputable shipping organization with focus on improving levels of competency in the shipping industry and shall:
Attract highly qualified people to the industry Attract highly qualified people to the organization Improve le…

Maritime Law--Ferries Between Florida and Cuba Now Licensed in U.S.

According to several news sources, passenger ferries could be set to run between Florida and Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years after the U.S. government approved 5 new ferry services on May 5, 2015. The U.S. Treasury granted licenses to at least five American companies to operate ferry services to Cuba for the first time in more than a half century, potentially bringing the former Cold War antagonists closer. These companies include Airline Brokers Co. of Miami, Baja Ferries USA, Havana Ferry Partners, United Caribbean Lines and America Cruise Ferries of Puerto Rico. Services between the two countries had stopped in 1960 when the U.S. imposed a trade embargo on Cuba. However, the U.S. announced the restoration of diplomatic ties in December 2014, an issue I have blogged on before. President Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at April's Summit of the Americas Photo AP
These granted licenses do not necessarily mean that ferries will start launching for Cu…

Maritime Law--Carnival's Week is a "Draw"--Won One, Lost One

In a case lost by Carnival, Terry v. Carnival, case no.: 1:13-cv-20571, a group of passengers whose four-day cruise turned into a nightmare in February 2013 have been awarded compensation by a court. The CARNIVAL TRIUMPH broke down after an engine fire, crippling its propulsion, electrical and plumbing systems. Passengers sued Carnival Corp., claiming they endured three days of deplorable, unsafe, unsanitary and hot conditions, including a lack of working toilets. The allegations were that the company knew the ship was not seaworthy even before an engine room fire knocked out power and created overflows of raw sewage. 

The passengers accused Carnival of breach of maritime contract for failing to provide them with safe passage on a seaworthy vessel, adequate food and sanitary and safe living conditions, and also alleged the company committed fraud and made negligent misrepresentations about a luxurious, stress-free vacation.

Shortly after the incident, Carnival said that all guests on t…