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Hedges v. United States

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

December 13, 2004, Argued ; April 15, 2005, Filed

No: 03-4395



SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.

Appellant Dean Hedges, whose sailboat was destroyed by heavy seas after it was moored at the Virgin Islands National Park, appeals from the District Court's dismissal of his admiralty claim against the United States for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. We must decide whether equitable tolling is applicable to save Hedges' claim. The District Court for the Virgin Islands had jurisdiction under the Suits in Admiralty Act ("SAA"), 46 U.S.C. §§ 741-752; this court has jurisdiction from the District Court's final order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

On December 12, 1996, Hedges' boat broke free from its Virgin Islands National Park ("VINP") mooring [**2]  and drifted onto nearby rocks, where it was destroyed. The painter line on the mooring, which was manufactured by Environmental Moorings International ("EMI"), appeared to have chaffed and come apart under harsh weather conditions. Hedge's boat was uninsured.

Shortly after the incident, Hedges sought advice from several Park Service employees regarding the proper avenue to pursue a claim against the United States. Hedges first contacted Mary Morris, the National Park Service ("NPS") Concessions Officer in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, who had issued Hedges' permit to enter the VINP. He claims that Morris advised him to file a claim pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), and then mailed him a standard claim form ("SF-95"). Hedges then contacted Department of Interior ("DOI") Attorney Patricia Cortelyou-Hamilton, who responded by letter dated January 14, 1997:

Enclosed per your request, please find a copy of Standard Form 95. The completed form along with copies of all supporting documentation, should be sent to: Ms. Linda Giles [the Safety & Health Manager for the National Park Service] . . . Inquiries can be directed to the undersigned . . . .

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404 F.3d 744 *; 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 6337 **; 2005 AMC 1100


Prior History:  [**1]  On Appeal from the District Court for the Virgin Islands. (D.C. No. 00-cv-00003). District Judge: Honorable Raymond L. Finch.

Hedges v. United States, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23381 (D.V.I., 2003)


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Admiralty & Maritime Law, Federal Government, Suits in Admiralty Act, Procedural Matters, Governments, Legislation, Statute of Limitations, Time Limitations, Collisions, General Overview, Statute of Limitations, Claims By & Against, Civil Procedure, Tolling of Statute of Limitations, Governmental Entities, Labor & Employment Law, Title VII Discrimination, Waiver, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Tolling, Practice & Procedure, Jurisdiction, Administrative Law, Sovereign Immunity, Real Property Law, Title Quality, Adverse Claim Actions, Quiet Title Act, Torts, Liability, Federal Tort Claims Act, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Jurisdiction Over Actions, Burdens of Proof, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Failure to State Claim, Responses, Motions to Dismiss, Mistake, Remedies, Affirmative & Equitable Relief, Attorneys, Criminal Law & Procedure, Postconviction Proceedings, Imprisonment, Parties, Pro Se Litigants, Pleading Standards, Tolling, Disabilities, Insanity, Claim Presentation