Law School Case Brief
Barber Lines A/S v. M/V Donau Maru - 764 F.2d 50 (1st Cir. 1985)
A plaintiff may not recover for his economic loss resulting from bodily harm to another or from physical damage to property in which he has no proprietary interest.
In December 1979 the ship Donau Maru spilled fuel oil into Boston Harbor. The spill prevented a different ship, the Tamara, from docking at a nearby berth. The Tamara had to discharge her cargo at another pier. In doing so, she incurred significant extra labor, fuel, transport and docking costs. The Tamara, her owners, and her charterers sued the Donau Maru and her owners in admiralty for financial injury claiming negligence and sought recovery of the extra expenses as damages. The district court denied recovery on the basis of the pleadings. The plaintiffs appealed.
Did the district court err in denying recovery to the Tamara, her owners, and her charters for their financial injury stemming from the delay of the Tamara's ability to berth her cargo?
The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court. The appellate court concluded that under controlling case law, plaintiffs could not recover damages for negligently caused financial harm, even when foreseeable, except in special circumstances. Since plaintiffs failed to bring themselves within any recognized class or category in which financial damages were already allowed or to provide convincing reasons for the creation of any new exception that would work to their legal benefit, the appellate court declined the invitation to depart from existing precedent.
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