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CAPARELLI v. THE PROCEEDS OF FREIGHT

November 18, 1974

Frank CAPARELLI et al., Plaintiffs, and Robert L. Jones et al., and James J. Hayes et al., Plaintiffs-Intervenors,
v.
The PROCEEDS OF FREIGHT, Pan American Tankers Corporation and Whitehall Navigation Corporation, Pursuant to Charter Parties with the Government of South Vietnam for Transport of Cargo Aboard the S.S. CORTLAND, S.S. BOWLING GREEN and S.S. WHITEHALL, Defendants. NATIONAL BANK OF NORTH AMERICA, Defendant and Third-Party Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES of America, Third-Party Defendant


Bonsal, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BONSAL

BONSAL, District Judge.

This is an action in admiralty for recovery of mariners' wages. Plaintiffs are unlicensed seamen who in 1967 and 1968 allegedly were employed aboard the S.S. BOWLING GREEN, the S.S. CORTLAND, and the S.S. WHITEHALL, Plaintiffs-intervenors ("intervenors"), the Trustees of the Masters, Mates & Pilots Pension & Welfare Plan and the Trustees of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association Health & Welfare Plan, are the assignees of the wage claims of the licensed deck officers and licensed marine engineers, respectively, who in 1967 and 1968 allegedly were employed aboard the same three vessels. Defendant and third-party plaintiff National Bank of North America ("National") is the holder of preferred mortgages on the S.S. BOWLING GREEN, S.S. CORTLAND and S.S. WHITEHALL.

 Plaintiffs, intervenors, National, and third-party defendant United States of America each move for summary judgment. In addition, plaintiffs and intervenors move for an order pursuant to F.R.Civ.P. 36 "that the matters set forth in the Requests for Admissions of plaintiffs and plaintiffs-intervenors are admitted," and for an order pursuant to F.R.Civ.P. 36, 37, and 56 "that sanctions be imposed upon defendant National Bank of North America including, without limitation, motion costs and attorneys' fees." Finally, plaintiffs move for an order granting them leave to amend the complaint.

 The facts involved in this action are set forth in this Court's Opinion filed March 25, 1974, 390 F. Supp. 1345, and need not be repeated here. In that Opinion, this Court denied a prior motion by plaintiffs and intervenors for summary judgment, but held that a mariner could proceed against those monies then in possession of National representing freight, demurrage, and "lay-up expense" to enforce his lien for wages. The Court at that time requested suggestions from counsel as to how the claims to this fund could be heard and disposed of most expeditiously. No order has yet been entered on the Opinion.

 At a conference on April 17, 1974, at which counsel for all parties were present, counsel for plaintiffs and intervenors indicated the availability of certain documentary evidence consisting of wage vouchers, assignments of wage claims, business records of union trust funds, and payroll records of Pan American Tankers Corporation ("Pan American") and Whitehall Navigation Corporation ("Whitehall") which in their opinion established the validity and extent of the alleged wage claims. It was agreed that within thirty days counsel for all parties would meet in the office of Assistant United States Attorney Rosenberg to inspect the originals of certain of these documents in order to ascertain their authenticity and to determine whether any factual issues remained for trial. The Court was subsequently informed that counsel met to inspect documents on April 25, 1974.

 On or about May 9-13, 1974, counsel for plaintiffs and intervenors served on counsel for all parties and filed with the Court requests for the admission of certain matters pursuant to F.R.Civ.P. 36, including the authenticity of the payroll records of Pan American and Whitehall and the wage vouchers. On or about June 10, 1974, National served and filed objections to these requests for admissions.

 A second conference between the Court and counsel for all parties was held on June 21, 1974. At that time counsel for plaintiffs and intervenors informed the Court of their intention to move for summary judgment on the basis of all papers on file and on the basis of their requests for admissions and National's objections. Oral argument on the motions presently pending was heard on September 3, 1974.

 Pursuant to Order of this Court filed September 17, 1974, National was directed to deposit in the Court Registry the sum of $578,099.38, representing the res in this suit plus interest, because it appeared that National had taken no action to segregate this fund as directed in the Court's Opinion of March 25, 1974. The Clerk of the Court thereafter deposited these monies in an interest bearing account in the Bank of New York, 48 Wall Street, New York, New York.

 Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint

 Plaintiffs seek to amend the complaint to add as plaintiffs Joseph DiGrazia and Helen Theresa Devalcourt Burch, as Administratrix of the Estate of Richard A. Burch, and to allege the claim of DiGrazia as $3,498.07 for net wages, $299.45 for social security tax and $1,007.80 for income tax withholding, and the claim of Burch as $622.84 for net wages, $193.06 for social security tax and $460.00 for income tax withholding. National opposes plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint on the grounds that the motion is "unreasonable and unfair to the other parties," that there is "no need for an amendment of this type," and that any claims of the parties sought to be added are barred by the statute of limitations.

 According to the affidavit of David Jaffe, Esq., submitted in support of plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint, the Seafarer's International Union did not originally make a claim for DiGrazia because immediately upon repatriation he shipped out on another vessel without contacting the union. No claim was originally made for Burch because he died in Saigon on or about June 6, 1968 and therefore was not listed among those who returned to the United States with the crew of the S.S. WHITEHALL. Jaffe's affidavit also indicates that counsel for intervenors and for the United States have no objection to the granting of the motion. Moreover, since the claims of plaintiffs and intervenors are already considerably in excess of the fund available to satisfy those claims, it would not appear that National will be prejudiced by granting of plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint.

 Finally, National asserts, without citing authority, that the applicable statute of limitations is six years and therefore any claims of the two parties sought to be added are time-barred. However, in view of the reasons for failure to file the claims originally, the preferred position occupied in admiralty law by mariners with claims for wages, the lack of objection of the other claimants to the fund, except National, the apparent absence of prejudice to National, the failure of National to show that the applicable statute of limitations is six years, and the fact that the fund did not come into existence until sometime in the latter part of 1969 or early 1970, plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend the complaint is granted. F.R.Civ.P. 15(a).

 Motions of Plaintiffs and Intervenors for Summary Judgment

 In denying the prior motions of plaintiffs and intervenors for summary ...


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