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TRUEMAN v. HISTORIC STEAMTUG NEW YORK

July 10, 2000

STEVEN C. TRUEMAN, PLAINTIFF,
V.
THE HISTORIC STEAMTUG NEW YORK, HER ENGINES, TACKLE, FURNITURE, APPAREL, ETC., DEFENDANT, EMRE R. DUHLOS AND RICHARD G. ANDERSON, CLAIMANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kahn, District Judge.

  DECISION AND ORDER

This Admiralty and Maritime action was originally commenced on January 14, 2000, by Plaintiff. It involves an ownership dispute over title to the historic steamtug New York (previously known, among other names, as the Catawissa). Presently before this Court is Plaintiff's motion to establish title under Local Rules of Admiralty and Maritime Claims Rule D. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is denied.

I. DISCUSSION

A. Non-Compliance with Publication Requirement

Rule C of Section XII of the Northern District of New York Local Rules of Procedure, for Admiralty and Maritime Claims requires that the notice follow Rule 4(c) of the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and that the notice required shall be published at least once and shall contain (i) the fact and date of the arrest; (ii) the title of the cause; (iii) the nature of the action; (iv) the amount demanded; (v) the name of the marshal; (vi) the name and address of the attorney for the Plaintiff; and (vii) a statement that Claimants shall file their claims with the Clerk of this Court within ten (10) days after the arrest or within such additional time as shall be allowed by the Court, and shall serve their answers within twenty (20) days after the filing of their claims.

In this action, the notice was publicized on March 3, 2000, by the U.S. Marshal in the Times Union (an Albany region newspaper), but contained no reference to the fact that Plaintiff was appearing pro se or was his address provided in said notice. Despite non-compliance, this Court will not penalize a pro se litigant for the U.S. Marshal's error.

B. Admiralty and Maritime in rem proceedings

An in rem action may be brought against a vessel or other maritime property by making the vessel itself a defendant in the action. Plaintiffs can proceed in rem by either establishing a maritime lien or proceeding pursuant to federal statute.

In the present action, plaintiff provides no reliance upon any federal statute. Therefore, the Court must determine whether Plaintiff may proceed in rem pursuant to a maritime lien.

1. Maritime Liens and Arrest

Only a maritime lien holder may have a vessel arrested. Under a maritime lien arrest, a maritime lien falls into one of four categories: (i) a general average claim, see Compania Altantica Pacifica, S.A. v. Humble Oil & Ref. Co., 274 F. Supp. 884 (D.Md. 1967) (damages arising from a vessel's stranding); (ii) a salvage claim, see Veverica v. Drill Barge Buccaneer No. 7, 488 F.2d 880 (5th Cir. 1974) (salvage must be performed as a result of marine peril and not rendered voluntarily); The SABINE, 101 U.S. 384, 11 Otto 384, 25 L.Ed. 982 (1880) (services rendered that successfully prevent vessel from sinking); (iii) a crew wage claim, see Taylor v. Carryl, 61 U.S. 583, 20 How. 583, 15 L.Ed. 1028 (1857); or (iv) a claim for damages arising from maritime tort, see The ANACES, 93 F. 240 (4th Cir. 1899) (all actions for maritime tort are in rem, except for actions for assault and battery, which are in personam).

In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges undocumented expenditures of $150,000 for the repair and upkeep of the vessel. This alleged expenditure does not give rise to a maritime lien justifying the arrest of the vessel. Plaintiff provides no proof that these alleged expenditures arose from any of the four categories set forth above.

Plaintiff therefore lacks the required maritime lien to arrest the vessel under Rule C(1)(a).

2. Petitory Actions

This Court also has in rem jurisdiction in an action where title is at stake, known as a petitory action.

Plaintiff's assertion that this action constitutes a petitory action is erroneous. This Court has in rem jurisdiction over a petitory action only where the plaintiff already holds legal title to the vessel, and not a mere equitable interest. See Stathos v. The Maro, 134 F. Supp. 330, 332 (E.D.Va. 1955). Since Plaintiff does not already hold title to the vessel but is in effect trying to establish title, this Court lacks jurisdiction.

II. CONCLUSION

Accordingly, it is hereby

ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion to establish title under Admiralty ...


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