Admiralty Law Institute

ALI-MLALast week, 425 admiralty and maritime lawyers, law professors, U.S. Coast Guard officers, law students, and maritime industry professionals descended on New Orleans for the Golden Rules: Tulane Admiralty Law Institute and Maritime Law Association’s 50-Year Reunion. The event kicked off Wednesday morning at the New Orleans Board of Trade. The morning CLE program included a 50 year retrospective on marine insurance, followed by programs regarding maritime bodily injury and death. The first was moderated by Patricia Krebs, and featured a discussion of, among other things, strategies for defense counsel to reduce wage bases for claims of future wage loss in maritime employment. It was followed by a presentation on the Federal Arbitration Act, which included an analysis of some interesting recent cases arising in the cruise ship context regarding enforcement of arbitration clauses in U.S. seaman contracts, and the viability of post-injury arbitration agreements. Wednesday afternoon was dedicated to meetings of various committees of the MLA, including the Joint Marine Financing, Marine Bankruptcy, and Practice and Procedure Committees. The evening was capped off with a reception at the Cabildo on Jackson Square.

Thursday morning’s programming included a CLE on professionalism, with Judge Hanks of the Southern District of Texas and Magistrate Judge Knowles of the Eastern District of Louisiana as panelists, followed by presentations on marine finance and liens, collision, limitation of liability and salvage. As was the case Wednesday, Thursday afternoon was dedicated to meetings of committees of the MLA, including the Stevedores, Marine Terminals & Vessel Services Committee, held in the offices of King, Krebs & Jurgens, one of the meeting’s sponsors. Thursday evening provided an opportunity for a variety of social events, including a lively reception at Pat O’Brien’s, jointly hosted by the Young Lawyers Committees of the MLA and ALI.

The events concluded on Friday, with CLE programs in the morning on international law, the past and future of shipping, pollution, and ethics. The general meeting of the MLA was held in the afternoon at McAlister Auditorium, amidst the excitement of homecoming on Tulane’s campus. The week’s programming ended with a well-attended cocktail reception and formal dinner at the Audubon Tea Room.

The CLE programs and committee meetings provided a variety of interesting and useful insights into recent developments in the maritime world. A few examples:

  • Although the Federal Arbitration Act expressly excludes contracts of employment of U.S. seamen, rendering arbitration clauses in such contracts generally unenforceable, several courts have recently enforced arbitration clauses in U.S. seamen contracts when “performance is envisioned abroad.” See, e.g., Alberts v. RCCL, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 15502 (11th Cir. Aug. 23, 2016).
  • The impact of the Zika virus on the cruise line industry is ramping up. For example, in early August 2016, the shares of three major cruise lines fell the day after an advisory from the CDC was issued that warned pregnant women of the risk of Zika infection.
  • The Federal Maritime Commission has recently proposed several new rulemakings for further regulation of the marine terminal industry, driven, in great part, by actions taken and developments occurring at West Coast ports. Many parties, both ocean carriers and marine terminal operators, including the National Association of Waterfront Employers, have submitted comments to indicate displeasure with many of the proposed changes as too burdensome on the regulated parties and not providing the FMC with meaningful additional information.

When everything was said and done, attendees earned up to 975 minutes of CLE credit while meeting and reconnecting with colleagues from around the globe. It can truly be said that good times were had by all.

The next meeting of the Maritime Law Association will be held in May of 2017 in New York City.

ALI logo

The 25th Biennial Admiralty Law Institute kicked off with great success on March 11, 2015. Informative presentations continued on March 12-13, building on the theme of this year’s conference, “Symposium on Maritime Personal Injury and Death: Jurisdiction to Judgment.”

Thursday, March 12th: The second day of the Admiralty Law Institute began with a panel discussion of punitive damages. Punitive damages has been a hot topic since McBride v. Estis, where the Fifth Circuit, sitting en banc, reversed its own panel opinion. The panel had concluded that punitive damages could be recovered by a seaman for the alleged unseaworthiness of a vessel. In September 2014, the en banc court reversed that panel and held that the statutory remedies provided by the Jones Act could not be supplemented, and thus a seaman cannot recover punitive damages for death or personal injury based on unseaworthiness. The Supreme Court is considering granting certiorari, so the availability of punitive damages in such cases will likely remain controversial.

Thursday’s program also emphasized themes such as alternative dispute resolution and maritime disaster. A panel discussion moderated by Patricia Krebs addressed a shift in the litigation of maritime disputes from expensive and formal arbitration to more flexible and informal mediation.The following panel, entitled “Effective Settlement Negotiations” similarly addressed practical aspects of dispute resolution.

Two of Thursday’s panels discussed the Deepwater Horizon incident. The first focused on government regulation and class society rules post-incident. The other, which panel included attorneys from both sides of the Deepwater Horizon litigation and Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan, provided an illuminating recount of the effective strategies employed by Judge Barbier in helping to move such a massive case towards resolution.

Friday, March 13th included a panel discussion of the recent Coffin v. Blessey Marine Services, Inc. decision, in which the Fifth Circuit held that tankermen (i.e., individuals responsible for loading and unloading tank barges as part of their duties as crew of a tow) were seaman whilst loading and unloading the vessel, and thus exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The conference was not all work and no play; as was the case Wednesday, both Thursday and Friday featured opportunities for participants to mix and mingle with their colleagues. On Thursday, the Young Lawyers group hosted a networking mixer at the Foundation Room of the House of Blues for registrants in practice fewer than six years. Following the programming on Friday was the Tulane Maritime Law Alumni luncheon at Galvez.

The next Institute, which shall focus on commercial aspects of admiralty and maritime practice, will be held in October of 2016.

New Orleans Maritime Law
The Admiralty Law Institute runs from March 11-13 in New Orleans.

March 11, 2015, marked the first day of the 25th Biennial Admiralty Law Institute. Held at Tulane University in New Orleans, the ALI is the oldest and largest continuing legal education program devoted entirely to maritime law. The theme of this year’s conference is “Symposium on Maritime Personal Injury and Death: Jurisdiction to Judgment,” and Wednesday’s presentations were certainly in keeping with that theme. Some highlights from ALI’s first day:

First up was a panel discussion of recent developments in the ancient law of maintenance and cure. The panel noted that, despite the many modern improvements to the seaman’s lot, such as union contracts, vacation allowances, and disability pensions, the entitlement to maintenance and cure remains diligently guarded by the courts. The panel also discussed developments in the case law, such as the inability of the employer to turn a blind eye to accessible evidence corroborating the maintenance and cure claim, the scope of the seaman’s duty to disclose a pre-existing condition, and latent illnesses of the seaman–a subject that pushes the limits of the course and scope analysis.

Another topic up for discussion was cruise ships. The discussion was divided into two parts. First, regulation and compliance, followed by passenger and crew claims. A major topic of discussion was recent developments in the 11th Circuit regarding ship’s physicians. In the 5th Circuit the law remains that a ship’s physician, like a concessionaire, is not an employee or agent of the ship and thus no right of action exists against the shipowner for the medical malpractice or negligence of the on-board physician. As has been stated more often than once, ships are not floating hospitals. However, obtaining personal jurisdiction over the ship’s doctor in such cases is nearly impossible, so aggrieved parties are often left with no avenue of recovery. It seems the law is changing in the 11th Circuit, with a recent case holding the shipowner liable on an apparent agency theory.

Wednesday’s other presentations addressed attorney-client privilege and the admiralty practitioner, vessel status and jurisdiction (which included a very interesting discussion of the Lozman case) and removal of maritime cases. All presentations were followed by lively, and occasionally heated, questions and comments from the attendees. The day was capped off with a very well-attended cocktail reception at the lovely New Orleans Board of Trade.

Thursday’s topics include punitive damages, arbitration and mediation of maritime disputes, and litigating maritime disasters.