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Home Jones Act Defenses Mon River Towing, Inc. v. Industry Terminal and Salvage Co.
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Jones Act - Defenses
Sunday, 17 May 2009 21:20
Description of the Case: Laches- No Statute of Limitations, Prejudice & Inexcusable Delay- Bringing Claims

Case Name: Mon River Towing, Inc. v. Industry Terminal and Salvage Co.
Date of Judgment:
31st March 2009
Court:
United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
Judges:
District Judge Fischer
Citation:
2009 WL 904701 (W.D.Pa)

Background: The Plaintiff, Mon River Towing ("MRT") brought suit against Industry Terminal and Salvage Company ("ITS") for lost profits, indemnification, negligence and attorney's fees. MRT submitted a Motion for Summary Judgment.

Pursuant to two new contracts, MRT ordered 104 barges to be transported and held temporarily by ITS. The first 13 barges were delivered to ITS and were put on hold at the Shell Dock. An incident occurred and it became necessary to use two vessels to fix the problem.

Each vessel was stationed on either the left or right side of the barges to hold the ships in place. The problem was being addressed when the head wire and remaining side lines failed. The fleet drifted across the river and collided with the Bruce Mansfield fleet. MRT's fleet then went aground. Surveyors for MRT and ITS inspected the damage.

The barges were to be fixed between May and September 2004, constituting a four-month gap in usage. MRT contended that it was ITS's negligence which caused the damage. ITS stated that MRT could not recover because the statute of limitations [SOL] had run on bringing an action.

Issue: Whether MRT's complaint was timely under the equitable doctrine of laches.

Held:

(1) In admiralty law, there is no SOL; rather, the doctrine of laches exists. To invoke the defense of laches, there must be both an inexcusable delay in bringing the suit and prejudice to the defendant resulting from the delay.

MRT's delay was excusable. They gave ITS prompt notice of a potential claim for damage to MRT's vessel, and all witnesses to the incident were available to ITS from the beginning. Thus, no evidence existed of an inexcusable delay.

ITS stated they were prejudiced by MRT's failure to provide numerous documents pertinent to the lawsuit. However, the Court held that ITS failed to show how their inability to obtain the documents caused prejudice to ITS in fact. ITS's proclamations fell short of establishing sufficient evidence to prove prejudice by MRT.

(2) Summary judgment for MRT was inappropriate, as ITS had shown they did use due diligence and reasonable care. The Court stated that the jury was to decide the issue of negligence and denied summary judgment to MRT.

Significance:

The doctrine of laches is used in admiralty law instead of a SOL.

To bring a defense of laches, a party must show (1) an inexcusable delay in bringing the suit, and (2) prejudice to the other party resulting from the delay.

A party that shows they used due diligence and reasonable care will often be able to overcome the other party's motion for summary judgment.

Steve Gordon

http://www.offshoreinjuries.com



Last Updated on Monday, 19 October 2009 18:45
 

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