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Yang v. Majestic Blue Fisheries, LLC

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

June 13, 2017, Argued and Submitted, Honolulu, Hawaii; November 30, 2017, Filed

No. 15-16881


 [*997]  NGUYEN, Circuit Judge:

Chang Cheol Yang was a seaman who died when the fishing vessel he worked on sank because of inadequate repairs and an incompetent crew provided by Dongwon Industries Co. Ltd ("Dongwon"). His widow  [*998]  commenced a wrongful death action against Dongwon on behalf of his three minor children, herself, and his estate. Dongwon moved to compel arbitration based on an employment agreement between Mr. Yang and the vessel's owner, Majestic Blue Fisheries, LLC ("Majestic"). Because Dongwon is neither a signatory nor a party to the employment [**3]  agreement, the district court denied Dongwon's motion. We affirm.

In 2008, Dongwon sold the vessel, the F/V Majestic Blue, for $10 to Majestic, which is owned by the same family that owns Dongwon. In re Majestic Blue Fisheries, LLC, No. CV 11-00032, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102022, 2014 WL 3728556, at *10-11 (D. Guam July 25, 2014). Around that time, Majestic and Dongwon entered into contracts that required Dongwon both to supply the vessel's crew and to supervise its repairs and maintenance. 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102022, [WL] at *11. By then, the vessel was the oldest in Dongwon's fleet. Id.

On May 21, 2010, after undergoing repairs and despite a known rudder leak, the vessel set sail from Guam with Mr. Yang on board. 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102022, [WL] at *22, 32. Three weeks later, on June 14, 2010, the vessel sank in fair weather after being flooded with water. 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102022, [WL] at *29, *42. The crew failed to properly respond to the flooding, leaving Captain David Hill to execute critical abandon ship procedures on his own. 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102022, [WL] at *30, *48. Shortly after Mr. Yang re-boarded to look for Captain Hill, the vessel sank and both men died. 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102022, [WL] at *26.

Following this tragedy, the widows of Mr. Yang and Captain Hill filed separate wrongful death actions with overlapping claims and legal theories. Both widows contend that the vessel's inadequate repairs and incompetent crew rendered it unseaworthy and caused [**4]  it to sink. The complaints in both actions assert the same four claims against Dongwon and Majestic: (1) a survival action based on negligence for pre-death pain and suffering under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30304; (2) a wrongful death action under general maritime law; (3) a wrongful death action under the Death on the High Seas Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30301 et seq.; ("DOHSA"); and (4) a wrongful death action under the Jones Act.

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876 F.3d 996 *; 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 24308 **; 42 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 586; 2017 WL 5894910

ESTHER MARGARITA LIMA SUAREZ VIUDA DE YANG, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Chang Cheol Yang, Deceased; BRANDON CHEOL YANG LIMA, Minor; JI HEA YANG LIMA, Minor; CAMILA ROMINA YANG LIMA, Minor, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. MAJESTIC BLUE FISHERIES, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, Defendant, and DONGWON INDUSTRIES CO., LTD., a corporation incorporated under the laws of Korea, Defendant-Appellant.

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Guam. D.C. No. 1:13-cv-00015. Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, Chief District Judge, Presiding.

Esther Margarita Lima Suarez Viuda de Yang v. Majestic Blue Fisheries, LLC, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112040 (D. Guam, Aug. 24, 2015)

Disposition: AFFIRMED.


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Business & Corporate Compliance, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Arbitration, Foreign Arbitral Awards, International Law, Dispute Resolution, Arbitration & Mediation, Agreements, Orders to Compel, Treaty Interpretation, Particular Treaties, Intent, History & Practical Construction, Contracts Law, Contract Conditions & Provisions, Arbitration Clauses, Federal Arbitration Act, Orders to Compel Arbitration, Scope, Arbitration Agreements, Contracts Law, Affirmative Defenses, Estoppel, Equitable Estoppel, Equitable Estoppel, Elements of Equitable Estoppel, Admiralty & Maritime Law, Maritime Death Actions, Death on the High Seas Act, Coverage, Maritime Workers' Claims, Jones Act, Course of Employment, Business & Corporate Law, Establishment, Elements, Factors Inconsistent With Agency, Governments, Legislation, Statutory Remedies & Rights, Arbitrability