329 F.3d 946 (8th Cir. 2003), 02-2502, American River Transp. Co., Inc. v. Paragon Marine Services, Inc.

Docket Nº:02-2502
Citation:329 F.3d 946
Party Name:American River Transp. Co., Inc. v. Paragon Marine Services, Inc.
Case Date:June 02, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 946

329 F.3d 946 (8th Cir. 2003)

AMERICAN RIVER TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, INC., Appellee,

v.

PARAGON MARINE SERVICES, INC.; Consolidated Grain and Barge Company, Appellants.

No. 02-2502.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 2, 2003

Submitted: Feb. 13, 2003.

Page 947

Steven B. Belgrade, argued, Chicago, IL (John A. O'Donnell and Patrick J. Cullinan, on the brief), for appellants.

Simon P. Tonkin, argued, St. Louis, MO (James O. Hacking, III, on the brief), for appellee.

Before LOKEN 1, Chief Judge, RILEY and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

RILEY, Circuit Judge.

American River Transportation Company, Inc. (ARTCO) instituted the present action against Paragon Marine Services, Inc. (Paragon) and Consolidated Grain and Barge Co. (CGB) (collectively appellants) after a barge, the ING 5565, broke away from a fleet of barges operated by Paragon and CGB. The ING 5565 drifted downstream and collided with other barge fleets, loosening 137 barges as it traveled down river. After a bench trial, the district court 2 awarded ARTCO $1,544,713 in damages plus prejudgment interest. Appellants argue the district court erred in finding Paragon failed to overcome the presumption of negligence, and that Paragon was liable under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur and as a bailee. Because the district court did not clearly err in determining the barge broke free due to negligence rather than sabotage, we affirm.

The district court heard the parties' dispute under its admiralty jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1) (2000); Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(h) & 38(e); Koch Fuels, Inc. v. Cargo of 13,000 Barrels of No. 2 Oil, 704 F.2d 1038, 1041 (8th Cir. 1983). After empaneling an advisory jury, 3 the district court entered judgment in ARTCO's favor, finding the appellants' negligence caused the ING 5565 to breakaway and collide with other fleets. Appellants argued at trial the ING 5565 became loose due to an unforeseeable criminal act of sabotage. In an admiralty case, even with an advisory jury, we review the district court's findings of fact for clear error. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a); McAllister v. United States, 348 U.S. 19, 20, 75 S.Ct. 6, 99 L.Ed. 20 (1954).

When a collision is caused by a vessel drifting from her moorings, the moving vessel is presumed to be at fault unless affirmative proof shows an "inevitable accident, or a vis major, which human skill and precaution...

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