La. ex rel. Guste v. M/V Testbank

752 F.2d 1019 (5th Cir. 1985)

 

RULE:

Claims for economic loss unaccompanied by physical damage to a proprietary interest are not recoverable in maritime tort.

FACTS:

Forty-one actions were brought against defendant ships by plaintiffs state, shipping interests, marina operators, and others following a collision between defendants that resulted in the spill of 12 tons of PCP into the Mississippi River Gulf outlet. The outlet was closed temporarily to all navigation and to fishing, shrimping, and related activities. The actions proffered an assortment of liability theories, including maritime tort, private actions pursuant to various sections of the Rivers & Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899, and rights of action under Louisiana law. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment as to all claims for economic loss unaccompanied by physical damage to property. The trial court granted the requested summary judgment as to all such claims except those asserted by, inter alia, commercial fishermen.

ISSUE:

Is physical damage to a proprietary interest a prerequisite to recovery for economic loss in cases of unintentional maritime tort?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

In affirming the judgment, the court, sitting en banc, refused to abandon physical damage to a proprietary interest as a prerequisite to recovery for economic loss in cases of unintentional maritime tort. It also ruled that damages were not recoverable under a public nuisance theory, for violation of federal statutes, or under state law.

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