Articles Tagged with “Maritime Lawyer”

Shrimp Boat.jpgIn the landmark decision of Curd v. Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC., the Florida Supreme Court recently determined commercial fishermen have both statutory strict liability and common law negligence claims to recover damages caused by discharge of pollutants into Florida’s waters. Given the recent events in the Gulf of Mexico, marine pollution is on the forefront of the Nation’s mind. As explained below, this case provides recourse to those whose lives and businesses were harmed by the pollution of Florida’s waters.

 

Strict Liability

 

The Florida Supreme Court first determined Florida’s Pollutant Discharge, Prevention & Removal Statute gives fishermen who lost revenue as a result of pollutant discharge a strict liability cause of action against the polluter. This means fishermen need only prove:

  1. The defendant discharged pollutants which entered Florida’s waters; and
  2. The pollutants caused the fisherman economic damages.

The fishermen need not prove the polluter was negligent in the care, handling or disposal of the pollutants in order to recover. This is a major victory for fishermen because they have a relatively light legal burden of proof and can more easily recover damages from polluters than they would under a common law negligence claim.

Common Law Negligence

In addition to finding commercial fishermen have a strict liability claim under the Florida statute, the court also determined they have a common law cause of negligence. The court held Florida common law implies that companies owe a duty keep, store and dispose of pollutants in a reasonably safe manner so as not to economically harm the state’s fishermen. Should a company breach this duty, it will be liable for the economic damages of the fishermen.

Broader Application

Though this case deals with commercial fishermen, it has a boarder holding. As worded, the opinion provides these rights to any person or company damaged by the discharge of pollutants! Theoretically this means:

  • Hotels,
  • Boat and personal water craft rental businesses,
  • Recreational fishing guides,
  • Charter boat companies,
  • Nautical and marine sightseeing businesses,
  • Seafood restaurants,
  • Beach concessionaires, and,
  • Any other business that lost revenue due to the pollution.

Given the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, this holding provides many of Florida’s gulf coast business affected by the spill recourse against BP and Transocean.
Continue Reading

We are often asked by our clients who refurbish yachts whether they can include a clause in their contracts which gives them a maritime lien for attorney fees paid in association with bringing a lawsuit to collect unpaid invoices. Unfortunately, the answer is no. However, maritime law does provide a remedy.

Contract.jpgMaritime liens are statutory. This means the Maritime Lien Act gives people who provide goods and services to yachts, ships and other vessels certain protections. This includes the ability to arrest the ship in order to secure payment on outstanding invoices. However, nowhere in the Maritime Lien Act does Congress give a maritime lien for attorney fees. As such, courts hold that a person cannot have a lien against the vessel for attorney fees even if the owner agreed to such a lien in a contract. However, this does not preclude a contractor from putting a clause in the contract whereby the owner agrees to be personally liable for attorney fees should a lawyer need to be hired to collect the debt.

Often times a maritime collection lawsuit has two defendants: (1) the yacht; and, (2) the yacht owner. The claim against the yacht is for the foreclosure of a maritime lien. This claim is for the amount of the unpaid invoices plus certain court costs allowed by law and prejudgment interest. The claim against the owner is for breach of contract. This claim is also for the amount of unpaid invoices, certain taxable costs provided by law, prejudgment interest plus anything else the contract may provide. If the contract is written properly, these additional damages can include costs (normally not allowed by pure operation of law) as well as attorney fees paid in the course of pursuing the collection lawsuit. As such, though the contractor cannot create a maritime lien for attorney fees he still can recoup his attorney fees against the yacht owner.