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In re TT Boat Corp.

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

July 29, 1998, Decided ; July 30, 1998, Filed, Entered

CIVIL ACTION NO. 98-494 C/W ALL SECTION: K(5)

Opinion

Before the court are two motions which were set for hearing at a status conference held on July 28, 1998. A Motion to Limit Discovery and Trial Issues was filed by Walter Oil & Gas Corporation, et al. A Motion to Dissolve Injunctions and/or Restraining Orders from Limitation Proceedings was filed by claimant Henry James Leonard. Having considered the arguments of counsel, the record, and the applicable law, the court (1) denies the motion to limit discovery and trial issues, but shall try limitation and damages issues separately, and (2) grants the motion to dissolve injunctions with respect to masters, but denies that motion with respect to all others.

As the court stated at the status conference,  [*4]  this matter shall be tried in two stages, the first trial shall be on limitation issues and the second trial shall be on damages issues. Pretrial, trial and settlement conference dates are contained in separate minute entries. Discovery shall not be limited by issue, however, and shall progress "globally," i.e., pertaining to both damages and limitation issues, as set forth in the scheduling order entered by Magistrate Judge Alma Chasez on June 24, 1998. See Record Doc. No. 105.

The court grants the motion to dissolve the injunction in part. At the time of the accident, movant was a seaman and member of the crew of the Barge CHEROKEE (the "Cherokee"). The court recognizes that ] the master and crewmembers of the Cherokee may not limit their liability under the Limitation of Shipowners' Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. §§ 181-189 (the "Limitation Act"). See Zapata Haynie Corp. v. Arthur, 926 F.2d 484, 485 (5th Cir. 1991). Petitioners claim that as a matter of general maritime law, a seaman cannot recover for the negligence of the master or any member of the crew. See The Osceola, 189 U.S. 158, 47 L. Ed. 760, 23 S. Ct. 483 (1903), cited in Beltia v. Sidney Torres Marine Trans.  [*5]   Inc., 701 F.2d 491, 493 (5th Cir. 1983). Whether claimants have a valid cause of action against the master and crewmembers of the Cherokee, however, is not before the court at this time. Accordingly, the court dissolves the injunction as to the master and crewmembers of the Cherokee with the caveat that the any judgment from another court relative to the master or crewmembers of the Cherokee shall have no issue or claim preclusive effect on the matters before this court.

The court denies the motion to dissolve the injunction as to underwriters of the Cherokee. Petitioners concede that the ] insurance underwriters of the Cherokee may not limit their liability under the Limitation Act. See Magnolia Marine Transport Co., Inc. v. La Place Towing Corp., 964 F.2d 1571, 1576 (5th Cir. 1992). As Petitioners point out, the Fifth Circuit has required the limitation action to precede the direct action.  Magnolia, 964 F.2d 1571 at 1579. Thus, any claims against the insurance underwriters based on the Louisiana Direct Action Statute, La. Rev. Stat. § 22:655, must be stayed pending the outcome of the limitation proceeding. See id., citing, Guillot v. Cenac Towing Co., Inc., 366 F.2d 898, 905 [*6]  (5th Cir. 1966), and Maryland Casualty Co. v. Cushing, 347 U.S. 409, 421, 98 L. Ed. 806, 74 S. Ct. 608 (1954). The practical effect of such a stay is that it prevents exhaustion of the funds available in the limitation proceeding. See 964 F.2d at 1578-79. Thus, the court refuses to dissolve the injunction as to Cherokee's insurance underwriters.

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1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12033 *; 1998 WL 433794

IN THE MATTER OF TT BOAT CORPORATION AS OWNER, and TIDEWATER MARINE, INC., AS OWNER PRO HAC VICE OF THE TUG GULF CAJUN PRAYING OR EXONERATION FROM LIMITATION OF LIABILITY

Disposition:  [*1]  Motion to Limit Discovery and Trial Issues DENIED. Motion to Dissolve Injunctions and/or Restraining Orders from Limitation Proceedings GRANTED with respect to the master and crewmembers of the Barge CHEROKEE with the caveat and DENIED in all other respects.

CORE TERMS

injunction, dissolve, crewmembers, underwriters, Discovery, claimant, caveat, crew

Admiralty & Maritime Law, Maritime Tort Actions, Negligence, General Overview, Maritime Workers' Claims, Maritime Tort Actions, Shipping, Regulations & Statutes, Limitations on Liability, Masters, Civil Procedure, Judicial Officers, Masters, Insurance Law, Business Insurance, Marine & Inland Marine Insurance, Definitions