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American Petroleum and Transport, Inc. v. The City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

October 10, 2012

AMERICAN PETROLEUM AND TRANSPORT, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
The CITY OF NEW YORK and The Department of Transportation of the City of New York, Defendants.

Page 467

James Michael Maloney, James M. Maloney, Port Washington, NY, for Plaintiff.

Anshel E. David, NYC Law Department, New York, NY, for Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

In this admiralty case, plaintiff American Petroleum and Transport, Inc. (" American" ), the owner of a barge, seeks to recover economic damages to its business resulting from the unexpected closure of a drawbridge owned and operated by defendant the City of New York (" the City" ).[1] The City has moved to dismiss, on the grounds that under a line of cases arising out of Robins Dry Dock & Repair Co. v. Flint, 275 U.S. 303, 48 S.Ct. 134, 72 L.Ed. 290 (1927), economic losses caused by an unintentional maritime tort are not recoverable where the plaintiff has not suffered personal injury or physical damage to its property. For the reasons stated herein, the motion to dismiss is granted.

I. Background[2]

American, incorporated in New York State, was in the business of transporting petroleum products by water. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 9. On March 1, 2011, American owned a barge, the John Blanche, and was the demise charterer [3] of a tug, the Caspian Sea (together, the " tug and barge" ). Id. ¶¶ 7-8. That day, the tug and barge entered into the Hutchinson River. However, a drawbridge owned and/or operated by the City— the Pelham Parkway (or Shore Road) Bridge— failed to open to vessel traffic. Id. ¶ 12. American alleges that the City had been timely notified of the need for the drawbridge to be open to permit the tug and barge to pass through. Id. The drawbridge's functionality was not restored until March 3, 2011, and the drawbridge did not open to vessel traffic until that afternoon. Id. ¶ 13. As a result of the drawbridge's closure, the tug and barge was delayed by approximately two and one-half days. Id.

As a result of the delay, American alleges it suffered $28,828 in monetary damages. These consist of $21,000 in lost

Page 468

work previously contracted; $4,500 in crew wages; $2,000 in rent of the tug; $500 in fuel; and $828 in insurance. Id. ¶ 14. American does not claim to have suffered any property damage or physical injury.

On May 8, 2012, American filed its Complaint in this District. It brings causes of action for common law negligence, id. ¶¶ 18-19, and for violation of 33 U.S.C. § 494, which requires that a drawbridge over navigable water " be opened promptly by the persons owning or operating such bridge upon reasonable signal for the passage of boats and other water craft." Id. ¶¶ 15-17.

On July 2, 2012, the City filed a motion to dismiss. Dkt. 8-10. On July 20, 2012, American filed a memorandum of law in opposition to that motion. Dkt. 12. On July 31, 2012, the City filed a reply. Dkt. 13.

II. Discussion

The City moves to dismiss on the grounds that, under a line of maritime tort law cases tracing to Robins Dry Dock, recovery is barred for economic loss in the absence of physical harm. American disputes this reading of the law, arguing that the Robins Dry ...


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