Justia Energy, Oil & Gas Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law
Power Authority of the State of New York v. M/V Ellen S. Bouchard
The Authority appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants, two vessels and their corporate owners, in an action brought under the federal Oil Pollution Act (OPA) and state law. The claims arose from the release of thousands of gallons of oil from a submarine power-transmission cable into Long Island Sound, which the Authority alleges was caused by the defendant vessels dropping anchor.The Second Circuit vacated the district court's order and held that the submarine cable is indeed "used for" one of the enumerated "purposes" in the OPA's definition of "facility." Consequently, the panel found that the cable system is used for at least one of the enumerated purposes in the statute. Therefore, the district court erred in dismissing the Authority's OPA claims and in concluding that the Authority's New York Oil Spill Law claims had to be brought in the parallel proceeding on that basis. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Power Authority of the State of New York v. M/V Ellen S. Bouchard" on Justia Law
In re: Settoon Towing, LLC
The Oil Pollution Act (OPA), as confirmed by the Act's legislative history, grants to an OPA Responsible Party the right to receive contribution from other entities who were partially at fault for a discharge of oil. Specifically, a Responsible Party may recover from a jointly liable third party any damages it paid to claimants, including those arising out of purely economic losses. In a suit arising from a collision of two barges, the district court found both Settoon and Marquette Transportation were negligent. The Fifth Circuit held that Settoon could receive contribution from Marquette for its payment of purely economic damages, i.e., for the cleanup costs. The court also held that the district court's apportionment of fault was not clearly erroneous. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In re: Settoon Towing, LLC" on Justia Law
United States v. Citgo Asphalt Ref. Co.
As the tanker Athos neared Paulsboro, New Jersey, an abandoned anchor in the Delaware River punctured its hull and caused 263,000 gallons of crude oil to spill. The owner of the tanker, Frescati, paid $180 million in cleanup costs and ship damages, but was reimbursed for nearly $88 million by the U.S. government under the Oil Pollution Act, 33 U.S.C. 2701. Frescati made claims against CARCO, which ordered the oil and owned the terminal where the Athos was to unload, claiming breach of the safe port/safe berth warranty made to an intermediary responsible for chartering the Athos and negligence and negligent misrepresentation. The government, as a statutory subrogee for the $88 million reimbursement reached a limited settlement agreement. The district court held that CARCO was not liable for the accident, but made no findings of fact and conclusions of law, required by FRCP 52(a)(1). The Third Circuit remanded for findings, but stated that the Athos and Frescati were implied beneficiaries of CARCO‘s safe berth warranty; that the warranty is an express assurance of safety; and that the named port exception to that warranty does not apply to hazards that are unknown and not reasonably foreseeable. The court noted that it is not clear that the warranty was actually breached, absent findings as to the Athos‘s actual draft or the clearance provided. The court further stated that CARCO could be liable in negligence for hazards outside the approach to CARCO‘s terminal. View "United States v. Citgo Asphalt Ref. Co." on Justia Law
Shell Offshore, Inc., et al v. Greenpeace, Inc.
This case stemmed from Greenpeace's public campaign to stop Shell from driling in the Arctic. Greenpeace appealed the district court's grant of Shell's motion for a preliminary injunction, which prohibited Greenpeace from coming within a specified distance of vessels involved in Shell's Arctic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) exploration and from committing various unlawful and tortious acts against those vessels. The court affirmed the judgment, concluding that the action presented a justiciable case or controversy, that the district court had jurisdiction to issue its order, and that it did not abuse its discretion in doing so. View "Shell Offshore, Inc., et al v. Greenpeace, Inc." on Justia Law
Hornbeck Offshore Services, et al v. Salazar, et al
This case arose from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico where an explosion killed 11 workers, caused the drilling platform to sink, and resulted in a major uncontrolled release of oil. At Presidential direction, those events prompted the Department of the Interior to prohibit all new and existing oil and gas drilling operations on the Outer Continental Shelf for six months. The district court preliminarily enjoined enforcement of the moratorium. At issue on appeal was whether the Interior's subsequent actions violated a specific provision of the court's injunction, justifying a finding of civil contempt. The court held that even though the Interior immediately took steps to avoid the effect of the injunction, the court concluded that none of those actions violated the court's order. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment. View "Hornbeck Offshore Services, et al v. Salazar, et al" on Justia Law
Gabarick, et al. v. Laurin Maritime (America) Inc., et al.
This case arose when an ocean-going tanker collided with a barge that was being towed on the Mississippi River, which resulted in the barge splitting in half and spilling its cargo of oil into the river. Following the filing of numerous lawsuits, including personal injury claims by the crew members and class actions by fishermen, the primary insurer filed an interpleader action, depositing its policy limits with the court. At issue was the allocations of the interpleader funds as well as the district court's finding that the maritime insurance policy's liability limit included defense costs. The court affirmed the district court's decision that defense costs eroded policy limits but was persuaded that its orders allocating court-held funds among claimants were tentative and produced no appealable order. View "Gabarick, et al. v. Laurin Maritime (America) Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Gabarick, et al. v. Laurin Maritime (America), Inc., et al.
This case arose from an oil spill in the Mississippi River when an ocean-going tanker struck a barge that was being towed. Appellants (Excess Insurers) appealed the district court's decision requiring them to pay prejudgment interest on the funds deposited into the court's registry in an interpleader action. The Excess Insurers argued that the district court erred by: (1) finding that coverage under the excess policy was triggered by the primary insurer's filing of an interpleader complaint; (2) holding that a marine insurer that filed an interpleader action and deposited the policy limits with the court was obligated to pay legal interest in excess of the policy limits; and (3) applying the incorrect interest rate and awarding interest from the incorrect date. The court held that because the Excess Insurers' liability had not been triggered at the time the Excess Insurers filed their interpleader complaint, the district court erred in finding that they unreasonably delayed in depositing the policy limit into the court's registry and holding them liable for prejudgment interest. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment and did not reach the remaining issues. View "Gabarick, et al. v. Laurin Maritime (America), Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Cape Flattery Ltd. v. Titan Maritime, LLC
Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant, seeking indemnity and/or contribution based on the damage defendant allegedly caused through gross negligence in removing plaintiff's vessel from a coral reef. At issue was whether the district court properly denied defendant's motion to compel arbitration of the dispute under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq., where defendant alleged that the district court erred in refusing to apply English arbitrability law. The court held that based on the Supreme Court's reasoning in First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, courts should apply non-federal arbitrability law only if there was clear and unmistakable evidence that the parties intended to apply such non-federal law. Because there was no clear and unmistakable evidence in this case, federal arbitrability law applied. Under federal arbitrability law, the court's decisions in Mediterranean Enterprises, Inc. v. Ssangyong Construction Co. and Tracer Research Corp. v. National Environmental Services, Co., mandated a narrow interpretation of a clause providing for arbitration of all disputes "arising under" an agreement. Under this narrow interpretation, the present dispute was not arbitrable. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Cape Flattery Ltd. v. Titan Maritime, LLC" on Justia Law