Seafarer", 148 F.R.D. 469, 472 (D.R.I. 1993); Boykin v. Bergesen D.Y.A/S, 822 F. Supp. 324 326 (E.D.Va. 1993); Ortega v. Oceantrawl, Inc., 822 F. Supp. 621, 623 (D. Alaska 1993); In re Cleveland Tankers Inc., 791 F. Supp. 679, 680-82 (E.D. Mich. 1992). It must also be noted, nevertheless, that some District Courts have found punitive damage awards proper despite the Supreme Court's ruling See e.g., Duplantis v. Texaco Inc., 771 F. Supp. 787 (E.D.La 1991); Hannon v. Waterman Steamship Corp, 1991 WL 88012 (E.D.La. 1991); Davis v. Penrod Drilling Corp., 1991 WL 264541 (E.D. La. 1991); but see, Howard v. Atlantic Pacific Marine Corp., 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2474, 1992 WL 55487 (E.D. La. 1992)(acknowledging the contrary cases in the same district, but nonetheless ruling that punitive damages are not available for general maritime actions of Jones Act seaman in light of Miles).
Each of those cases allowing punitive damage claims seek to distinguish Miles by asserting that punitive damages exists for the special purpose of preventing and punishing misconduct by parties
As one court wrote, the nature of a punitive damage suit "is not a suit under the Jones Act, rather it comes under the general maritime law and includes allegations to the effect that [a plaintiff] willfully violated its duty." Duplantis, 771 F. Supp. at 788. Those courts allowing such awards reason that punitive damages are not the type of claim contemplated by the Supreme Court in Miles. This court finds such arguments unpersuasive. In order to accept this reasoning, a court must ignore the policy and reasoning set forth in Miles. Indeed, those cases previously cited for the proposition that punitive damage awards are proper each ignores the heart of the Miles decision: when Congress has legislated in an area of maritime law, judicially created remedies must conform with that legislation. To allow a punitive damage claim would be to expand maritime jurisprudence beyond Congress' intention. The Supreme Court in Miles made no distinction regarding non-pecuniary damages; and therefore, there is no reasonable view that the Miles Court believed that punitive damages should be considered in a different light. Because such a distinction was not made, this court concludes that Miles bars plaintiff's claim for punitive damages.
Assuming, however, that punitive damages could be considered in this case, the evidence would positively not support such an award. For purposes of this analysis, even if the court were to accept plaintiff's contention that the loss of air pressure was the direct result of ice blockage in the pneumatic lines, the requisite level of recklessness to warrant punitive damages could not be established
E.g., In re Marine Sulphur Queen 460 F.2d at 105 (in order for an award of punitive damages to be proper it must be established that the defendant "was guilty of gross negligence or actual malic, or criminal indifference which is the equivalent of wanton and reckless conduct"); see also, Action S.A. v. Marc Rich & Co. Inc., 951 F.2d 504, 507 (2d Cir. 1991)(punitive damages appropriate in cases involving gross fraud, willful or wanton negligence, and morally culpable conduct); Miles v. Melrose, 882 F.2d 976 (5th Cir. 1989)(relying on In re Marine Sulphur Queen); Muratore v. M/S Scotia Prince, 845 F.2d 347 (1st Cir. 1988)(punitive damages appropriate where defendants actions were intentional, deliberate or so wanton or reckless so as to demonstrate a conscious disregard for the rights of others).
The evidence shows that on the morning of February 12, 1992, the Alexander Hamilton was started up by Silecchia. It appeared to be functioning normally and did, in fact, complete one trip from Hoboken to the WFC and back without incident. There was no indication of impending danger to the passengers of the ferry. Neither the Hamilton nor any of its sister ships ever experienced a total loss of pneumatic pressure once they were underway. Additionally, the Hamilton was routinely inspected by the United States Coast Guard, as well as the ABS. Although the evidence shows that any inspector could have observed the "dip" in the air line, never did either agency perceive the line to be a threat or in any way suggest to defendants that improvements should be made in the pneumatic system to prevent line freezing. Considering that the safety inspectors who made routine examinations of the Hamilton and its sister ships did not recognize that the "dipped" airline posed any cause for concern, the court cannot label defendants failure to perceive any risk as grossly negligence.
Finally, although plaintiff makes much about the fact that on two prior occasions the ferry could not be operated because after sitting in the water for the weekend, ice blocked the pneumatic lines, the court finds that those incidents were very different to the present case. Each prior occasion when ice blocked the pneumatic lines, the ferry was being started on a Monday morning after it had been sitting in cold water all weekend. The ferry was inoperable because air pressure in the pneumatic lines was blocked. After heat was applied to the blockage, the ferry was able to function without further incident. In the present case, the ferry suddenly failed after it was already in operation. It is simply not reasonable to conclude that the inability to start the ferry on a cold morning would signal to defendants that a total loss of pneumatic pressure while the ferry was underway was likely or possible. Accordingly, defendants' conduct does not rise to the level of willful or wanton indifference necessary to support a claim of punitive damages.
With regard to plaintiff's claim the court finds defendants, who concede negligence, to be liable to plaintiff for personal injuries sustained in the allision. Plaintiff shall recover $ 35,000 in compensatory damages.
Further, plaintiff's claim for punitive damages is hereby dismissed.
Each side shall bear its own costs.
The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment accordingly.
IT IS SO ORDERED
Dated: December 26, 1995
New York, New York
Bernard Newman, U.S.D.J., by designation