673 F.3d 108 (2nd Cir. 2012), 08-3031-cv(L), Otal Investments Ltd. v. M/V CLARY
|Docket Nº:||N.V. Fortis Corporate Insurance, United Services Automobile Association, ASI Auto Shipment GmbH, Charles Broomfield, Morgan Moon, Patricia York, Aplina Insurance Co., Ted L. Rausch Co., Augusta Assicurazioni S.p.A., CNH Italia S.p.A, CNH Trade N.V., New Holland North America Inc., FedEx Trade Networks Transport & Brokerage Inc., O & K Orenstein & K|
|Citation:||673 F.3d 108|
|Opinion Judge:||PER CURIAM:|
|Party Name:||OTAL INVESTMENTS LIMITED, as Owner of the M/V Kariba, for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability, Plaintiff-Counter Defendant-Third-Party-Plaintiff-Appellee-Cross-Appellant, v. M/V CLARY, Third-Party-Defendant-Cross-Defendant-Appellant-Cross-Appellee, M/V Tricolor, her engines, boilers, etc., Consolidated-Defendant-Appellee, Mineral Shipping C|
|Attorney:||John D. Kimball, Blank Rome LLP, New York, New York, for Plaintiff-Counter-Defendant-Third-Party-Plaintiff-Appellee-Cross-Appellant. Chester D. Hooper (James T. Shirley, Francesa Morris, of counsel) Holland & Knight, New York, New York, for Third-Party-Defendants-Counter-Claimants-Appellants-Cros...|
|Judge Panel:||Before: B.D. PARKER, HALL, and LYNCH, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||March 08, 2012|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit|
Argued: Nov. 2, 2009.
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Nine years ago, on a foggy night in the English Channel, three vessels— the M/V Kariba (the " Kariba" ), the M/V Tricolor (the " Tricolor" ), and the M/V Clary (the " Clary" )— came into close proximity of one another. The Kariba altered course to avoid the Clary and, in doing so, struck the Tricolor, causing it to sink. Subsequently, the owners of the Kariba brought an action for exoneration or limitation of liability. The parties filed cross-claims, counter-claims, and third-party claims. After a bench trial in 2005, the district court (Baer, J. ) held the Kariba 100% liable for the collision. In re Otal Invs. Ltd., Nos. 03-civ-4304, 03-civ-9962, 04-civ-1107, 2006 WL 14512 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 4, 2006) (" Otal I " ). The owners of Kariba and the owners of the cargo on the Tricolor (the " Cargo Claimants" ) appealed. We reversed in part, holding that all three vessels had violated international regulations and were partially responsible for causing the collision, and remanded for the district court to consider the relative culpability of each vessel and the extent to which that culpability caused the collision. Otal Invs. Ltd. v. M.V. Clary, 494 F.3d 40, 63 (2d Cir.2007) (" Otal II " ). In its June 28, 2008 amended opinion and order, the district court allocated 63% liability to the Kariba, 20% liability to the Clary, and 17% liability to the Tricolor. Otal Investments Ltd. v. M/V Clary, No. 03-civ-4304, 03-civ-9962, 04-civ-1107, 2008 WL 2844019 (S.D.N.Y. June 23, 2008) (" Otal III " ). Among other holdings, the district court did not permit the Clary's Owners to limit their liability under the Limitation of Liability Act. All of the ships' interests appealed, arguing that the district court erred in allocating liability. The Clary Owners also contend that the district court erred in denying its motion for limitation of liability, and the Clary manager claims that the district court erred by imposing liability upon it. We find no error in the district court's allocation of liability. However, we find clear error in the district court's determination that the Clary Owners were not entitled to limit their liability. We decline to address the Clary manager's argument that its liability is limited because that argument was not raised below. We therefore AFFIRM in part, and VACATE and REMAND in part, for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
The facts surrounding the collision have been set forth in Otal I and Otal II, and it is not necessary to restate them here. In Otal III, the district court made additional findings applicable to the issues framed on remand. We will reference those facts only as necessary to explain our reasoning.
II. Allocation of Liability
A. Standard of Review
The Supreme Court has articulated a standard for allocation of liability involving the collision of vessels. In
when two or more parties have contributed by their fault to cause property damage in a maritime collision ..., liability for such damage is to be allocated among the parties proportionately to the comparative degree of their fault, and that liability for such damages is to be allocated equally only when the parties are equally at fault or when it is not possible fairly to measure the comparative degree of their fault.
Id. at 411, 95 S.Ct. 1708. Subsequently, in Getty Oil Co. (Eastern Operations) v. SS Ponce De Leon, 555 F.2d 328 (2d Cir.1977), this Court determined that allocation of liability under Reliable Transfer Co. is a question of fact and therefore reviewable only for clear error. Id. at 334; see also Ching Sheng Fishery Co. v. United States, 124 F.3d 152, 157-58 (2d Cir.1997) (" A district court's ... allocation of fault among negligent parties continues to be subject only to clearly erroneous review, and so long as the district court's factual findings are supported by the record, we will not overturn them...." (citation omitted)). " A finding is ‘ clearly erroneous' when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395, 68 S.Ct. 525, 92 L.Ed. 746 (1948). " On the comparative fault inquiry, ... [the district court] has considerable discretion in determining the relative degrees of each party's fault[.]" Arabian Am. Oil Co. v. Hellenic Lines, Ltd., 633 F.Supp. 659, 670 (S.D.N.Y.1986) (considering " all the facts and circumstances of this case," allocating fault " in the interests of justice," and noting that " damages, when ascertained, shall be apportioned accordingly" ); see also Elenson v. SS FORTALEZA, No. 90 Civ. 437, 1991 WL 254571, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 21, 1991) (observing that a district court has " considerable discretion in determining the relative degrees of each party's fault in contributing to the collision" ).
In our opinion remanding this case, we directed the district court
to consider the relative culpability of each vessel and the relative extent to which the culpability of each caused the collision. In making the culpability comparison, the district court should include in its consideration of the fault of the Clary the fact that its logbook was altered. We hasten to add, however, that allocation of liability for damages, requiring consideration of matters not readily amenable to precise analysis, does not oblige an admiralty judge to do more than provide ultimate percentages of allocation, accompanied only by sufficient...
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