24 F.3d 626 (4th Cir. 1994), 93-1202, Schultz v. Butcher

Docket Nº:93-1202, 93-1229.
Citation:24 F.3d 626
Party Name:Karen SCHULTZ, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. G. William BUTCHER, III; Edward H. Maass;
Case Date:May 24, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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24 F.3d 626 (4th Cir. 1994)

Karen SCHULTZ, Plaintiff-Appellant,


G. William BUTCHER, III; Edward H. Maass; "The Spirit of

Mount Vernon"; Spirit Cruises, Incorporated,


Karen SCHULTZ, Plaintiff-Appellee,


"The SPIRIT OF MOUNT VERNON"; Spirit Cruises, Incorporated,


G. William Butcher, III; Edward H. Maass, Defendants-Appellees.

Nos. 93-1202, 93-1229.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

May 24, 1994

Argued Feb. 9, 1994.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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ARGUED: David Rosenblum, Rosenblum & Rosenblum, Alexandria, VA, for appellant. Mark Travis Coberly, VandeVenter, Black, Meredith & Martin, Norfolk, VA, for appellees Spirit of Mount Vernon and Spirit Cruises; Gary Brooks Mims, Brault, Palmer, Grove, Zimmerman, White & Mims, Fairfax, VA, for appellees Butcher and Maass. ON BRIEF: Walter B. Martin, Jr., VandeVenter, Black, Meredith & Martin, Norfolk, VA, for appellees Spirit of Mount Vernon and Spirit Cruises.

Before LUTTIG, Circuit Judge, CHAPMAN, Senior Circuit Judge, and WILSON, United States District Judge for the Western District of Virginia, sitting by designation.

Reversed, vacated and remanded by published opinion. Senior Judge Chapman wrote the opinion, in which Judge LUTTIG and District Judge WILSON joined.


CHAPMAN, Senior Circuit Judge:

Karen Schultz was injured when the small boat in which she was riding crossed the wake 1 created by The Spirit of Mount Vernon, a large passenger vessel, which caused the smaller boat to impact sharply upon the water. Schultz brought this action against the owner and the operator of the smaller boat, and against The Spirit of Mount Vernon and its owner Spirit Cruises, Inc. ("Spirit Cruises"). During discovery, Spirit Cruises served a request for production of documents pertaining to the incident, but Schultz's attorney failed to produce a pertinent report of the accident that had been prepared by the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office. At the conclusion of a bench trial, the district court entered judgment for Schultz. We find that the failure to produce the Coast Guard report amounted to misconduct under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and reverse the district court's denial of Spirit Cruises' motion for a new trial, vacate the court's judgment and remand for a new trial.


On July 4, 1991, Karen Schultz was a passenger in a 16 foot pleasure boat, Gypsy, with a 65 horsepower outboard engine. She was injured when this craft crossed the wake of The Spirit of Mount Vernon and came down with great force, causing her to fall on the boat's hard inner surface. She suffered a fracture of her L-1 vertebra. This injury required extensive surgery, and her medical bills totaled $39,833.56.

Gypsy was owned by G. William Butcher, III and being operated by Edward H. Maass, neither of whom had any prior experience in the operation of small boats, particularly on the holiday crowded Potomac River. As Gypsy approached the three foot wake of The Spirit of Mount Vernon, Maass spotted the wake and reduced speed. After some discussion among Maass, Butcher and the passengers about the size of the wake and how to cross it, Maass increased the boat's speed to roughly ten knots and crossed the wake at a 45 degree angle. Prior to the accident, the five individuals who were on Gypsy, including Maass, consumed some alcoholic beverages.

Asserting admiralty jurisdiction, Schultz filed a complaint in federal district court against The Spirit of Mount Vernon, Spirit Cruises, Maass, and Butcher. The complaint alleged that Spirit Cruises was negligent for operating its vessel at an excessive speed and creating an unreasonable wake and that Maass and Butcher were negligent for operating the small craft at an excessive speed and handling the wake in an improper manner.

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On or about July 21, 1992, the following interrogatory was served on Schultz by the attorney for Spirit Cruises:

18. Identify and describe in detail any plat, drawing, document, photo, moving picture, videotape, or report concerning the incident or damages alleged in the Motion for Judgment filed herein, by whom it was prepared or made, and the name and address of the person who presently has control or custody of the same.

Schultz responded to this interrogatory on August 21, 1992 as follows:

Answer: My attorney has a copy of the State of Maryland Watercraft Accident Report and has enclosed the same. We have enclosed a copy of Report of Negligent or Grossly Negligent Operation which was submitted by Edward Maass on the date of the accident.

At this time, Schultz was also in possession of a United States Coast Guard report, prepared by M.D. Kearney of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Baltimore. This report concluded that there was "no evidence that SPIRIT OF MOUNT VERNON was operating at an excessive speed," and also...

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