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In re Petition of Archer

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 24, 2014

In Re: Petition of DANIEL ARCHER, as Owner of the unnamed vessel Hull ID #SERA5032J798, For Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability Petitioner.


ROBERT E. BLACKBURN, District Judge.

The matter before is the Claimant's Motion for Summary Judgment or in the Alternative Motion To Dissolve Injunction [#19], [1] filed January 10, 2014. I grant the motion for summary judgment and dismiss this case.


I putatively have jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1) (admiralty and maritime claims).


Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A dispute is "genuine" if the issue could be resolved in favor of either party. Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Farthing v. City of Shawnee, 39 F.3d 1131, 1135 (10th Cir. 1994). A fact is "material" if it might reasonably affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Farthing, 39 F.3d at 1134.

A party who does not have the burden of proof at trial must show the absence of a genuine fact issue. Concrete Works, Inc. v. City & County of Denver, 36 F.3d 1513, 1517 (10th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 115 S.Ct. 1315 (1995). By contrast, a movant who bears the burden of proof must submit evidence to establish every essential element of its claim or affirmative defense. See In re Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Securities Litigation, 209 F.Supp.2d 1106, 1111 (D. Colo. 2002). In either case, once the motion has been properly supported, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to show, by tendering depositions, affidavits, and other competent evidence, that summary judgment is not proper. Concrete Works, 36 F.3d at 1518. All the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Simms v. Oklahoma ex rel Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, 165 F.3d 1321, 1326 (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 120 S.Ct. 53 (1999).


Petitioner is the owner of the unnamed vessel Hull ID #SERA5032J798 (the "vessel"). On or about June 19, 2011, petitioner was operating the vessel on the navigable waters of Lake Powell. Claimant Alexis Perakos was injured while waterskiing behind the vessel. She filed suit against petitioner in Colorado state district court, alleging negligence and negligence per se.

Petitioner subsequently brought the present complaint, invoking the court's admiralty jurisdiction and seeking limitation of liability as provided by 42 U.S.C. § 30505(a), and Supplemental Rule F of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty and Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions. After the prerequisites of the Supplemental Rule had been satisfied, the court issued an order enjoining further prosecution of all claims against petitioner as the owner of the vessel and requiring all claimants to file their claims in this action. ( See Order [#16], filed January 3, 2014.) Ms. Perakos was the sole claimant to submit a claim. She now moves for summary judgment, arguing that because petitioner has acknowledged that he was operating the vessel at the time of the accident, the essential element of privity has been established, negating his right to seek limitation.[2]

The Shipowners Limitation of Liability Act (the "Act" or the "Limitation Act") was enacted "to encourage the development of American merchant shipping, " and thus "is directed at misfortunes at sea where the losses incurred exceed the value of the vessel and the pending freight." Lake Tankers Corp. v. Henn, 354 U.S. 147, 150-51, 77 S.Ct. 1269, 1271-72, 1 L.Ed.2d 1246 (1957).[3] "[T]he primary purpose of the Act [is] to provide a marshaling of assets [and] the distribution pro rata of an inadequate fund among claimants, none of whom can be paid in full." Complaint of Dammers & Vanderheide & Scheepvaart Maats Christina B.V., 836 F.2d 750, 755 (2nd Cir. 1988) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).To that end, the Act provides, in relevant part, that "the liability of the owner of a vessel for any claim, debt, or liability described in subsection (b)[4] shall not exceed the value of the vessel and pending freight." 42 U.S.C. § 30505(a).

If the statute is properly invoked,

[t]hereafter, in a proceeding known as a concursu s, the district court, sitting in admiralty without a jury, determines whether there was negligence; if there was negligence, whether it was without the privity and knowledge of the owner; and if limitation is granted, how the [limitation] fund should be distributed.

Complaint of Dammers, 836 F.2d at 755 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, a ...

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