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Dayyan J. Armstrong, Plaintiff v. Manhattan Yacht Club

April 26, 2013

DAYYAN J. ARMSTRONG, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MANHATTAN YACHT CLUB, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dora L. Irizarry, United States District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Dayyan J. Armstrong filed the instant action against defendant Manhattan Yacht Club, Inc. ("the Club") seeking damages under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104 et seq. ("the Jones Act"), and general maritime law, due to injuries he sustained while working for the Club on its floating clubhouse, the Honorable William Wall ("the Clubhouse"). The Club moves, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for summary judgment (Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J."), Dkt. Entry No. 9), which Plaintiff opposes (Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Opp'n), Dkt. Entry No. 13). The Club contends that, because the Clubhouse is not a "vessel," Plaintiff is not a "seaman," and cannot bring an action under the Jones Act or general maritime law. For the reasons set forth more fully below, summary judgment is granted and the complaint is dismissed in its entirety.

BACKGROUND*fn1

The Club is a community sailing organization with approximately 900 members. The Club owns a small fleet of sailboats that Club members sail for recreational purposes. (Def.'s Statement of Material Facts ("Def.'s 56.1"), Dkt. Entry No. 9-1 ¶ 1; Pl.'s Response to Def.'s 56.1 ("Pl.'s 56.1 Resp."), Dkt. Entry No. 14 ¶ 1.) The Club keeps its sailing vessels at the North Cove Marina in lower Manhattan. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 2; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 2.) The Club also owns the Clubhouse. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 3; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 3.) The Clubhouse is a two-story floating platform, which is held in place by two forty-foot vertical steel shafts secured to the seabed, known as "spuds." (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 5; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 5.) Additionally, the Clubhouse is anchored to the seabed by a four-point anchoring system. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 7; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 7.) The Clubhouse is rectilinear in shape and is 30 feet wide and 76.8 feet long. (Pl.'s 56.1 Counterstatement ("Pl.'s 56.1"), Dkt. Entry No. 14, ¶ 2.)

During the sailing season (May through October), the Clubhouse is moored in New York Harbor. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 13; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 13.) During the winter, to protect it from harsh weather, the Clubhouse is moored in the North Harbor. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 15; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 15.) The Clubhouse is incapable of moving between these two locations on its own. To move it, the Club hires a crane barge to remove the spuds and to tow the Clubhouse to its new location. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 6, 15; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 6, 15.) The Clubhouse has no engine, steering mechanism, or raked bow. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 16; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 16.) It lacks running lights, radar, navigational aids, crew and lifeboats. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 18; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 18.) It is listed as a "PASSENGER BARGE" on its Certificate of Inspection on file with the United States Coast Guard ("U.S.C.G."). However, as a condition of the Club's operation of the Clubhouse, the Certificate states that: "PASSENGERS SHALL ONLY BE CARRIED WHEN VESSEL IS ANCHORED, MOORED, OR MADE FAST (SPUD) TO BOTTOM." (Certificate of Inspection, attached as Ex. B to the Declaration of Michael Fortenbaugh ("Fortenbaugh Decl."), Dkt. Entry No. 9-2.)

The Club uses the Clubhouse as a viewing platform for Club members to watch various yacht races occurring in New York Harbor. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 19; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 19.) The Clubhouse consists of a viewing platform and a bar that serves alcoholic beverages, known as the "Champagne Bar." (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 19, 22; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 19, 22.) The Club does not use the Clubhouse to transport passengers. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 20; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 20.)

The Club hired Plaintiff in 1999 and Plaintiff performed renovations and maintenance-related work at the Clubhouse and elsewhere.*fn2 (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 4; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff was injured on November 18, 2009 and on June 16, 2010 while working at the Clubhouse. (Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 10; Pl.'s 56.1 Resp. ¶ 10.) On August 23, 2012, Plaintiff filed the instant action, seeking damages for his injuries under the Jones Act and general maritime law. (See generally Complaint ("Compl."), Dkt. Entry No. 1.) Presently, the Club's motion for summary judgment is before this Court.

DISCUSSION

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). "In ruling on a summary judgment motion, the district court must resolve all ambiguities, and credit all factual inferences that could rationally be drawn, in favor of the party opposing summary judgment and determine whether there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact, raising an issue for trial." McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F. 3d 184, 202 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal quotations omitted). A fact is "material" within the meaning of Rule 56 when its resolution "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue is "genuine" when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. To determine whether an issue is genuine, "[t]he inferences to be drawn from the underlying affidavits, exhibits, interrogatory answers, and depositions must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Cronin v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 46 F. 3d 196, 202 (2d Cir. 1995) (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962) (per curiam) and Ramseur v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 865 F. 2d 460, 465 (2d Cir. 1989)). "[T]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However, "[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

The moving party bears the burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] . . . which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotations omitted). Once the moving party has met its burden, "the nonmoving party must come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (emphasis omitted). The nonmoving party must offer "concrete evidence from which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in [its] favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. The nonmoving party may not "rely simply on conclusory statements or on contentions that the affidavits supporting the motion are not credible, or upon the mere allegations or denials of the nonmoving party's pleading." Ying Jing Gan v. City of New York, 996 F. 2d 522, 532-33 (2d Cir. 1993) (citations and internal quotations omitted). "Summary judgment is appropriate only '[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party.'" Donnelly v. Greenburgh Cent. Sch. Dist. No. 7, 691 F. 3d 134, 141 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.)

II. "Vessels" under the Jones Act and General Maritime Law "The Jones Act provides a cause of action in negligence for 'any seaman' injured 'in the course of his employment.'" Chandris, Inv. v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347, 354 (1995) (quoting 46 U.S.C. App. § 688(a)). Under general maritime law, "[u]nseaworthiness is a claim . . . based on the vessel owner's duty to ensure that the vessel is reasonably fit to be at sea." Lewis v. Lewis & Clark Marine, Inc., 531 U.S. 438, 441 (2001) (citing Mitchell v. Trawler Racer Inc., 362 U.S. 539, 550 (1960)). "A claim for maintenance and cure concerns the vessel owner's obligation to provide food, lodging, and medical services to a seaman injured while serving the ship." Id. (citing Calmar S.S. Corp. v. Taylor, 303 U.S. 525, 527-28 (1938)). Like claims arising under the Jones Act, to bring a claim under general maritime law, the plaintiff must be classified as a "seaman." See, e.g., Stewart v. Dutra Constr. Co., 543 U.S. 481, 487-89 (2005) (discussing claims arising under the Jones Act and general maritime law).

"To qualify for seaman status, a person must have an 'employment-related connection to a vessel in navigation.'" Lee v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 2007 WL 3406924, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 15, 2007) (quoting McDermott Int'l, Inc. v. Wilander, 498 U.S. 337, 355 (1991)). "The test for satisfying this requirement is twofold: (1) the worker's duties must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission, and (2) the worker must have a connection to a vessel in navigation . . . that is substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature." Id. (emphasis added) (quoting Chandris, 515 U.S. at 376).

Consequently, to qualify as a seaman, a worker must establish that he or she worked on a ...


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