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In re Moran Towing Corporation

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 3, 2014

In the Matter of the Complaint of MORAN TOWING CORPORATION, as Owner and Operator of the TUG TURECAMO GIRLS, for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability, Petitioner.

CLARK ATCHESON & REISERT, Richard Joseph Reisert, Esq., Frank A. Atcheson, Esq., Stephen K. Carr, Esq., Of Counsel, North Bergen, New Jersey, Attorneys for Petitioner.

KREINDLER & KREINDLER, Daniel O. Rose, Esq., Megan Wolfe Benett, Esq., Attorneys for Claimant.

OPINION

ROBERT W. SWEET, District Judge.

Two actions were tried to the court from May 20, 2013 through June 4, 2013, the petition for exoneration filed by the petitioner Moran Towing Corporation ("Moran" or the "Petitioner") and a Jones Act and general maritime law action for negligence filed by claimant Avril Young ("Avril Young" or the "Claimant"). These actions arise out of the crushing to death on December 27, 2011 of Ricardo Young ("Young" or the "Decedent") a deckhand who was entrapped in the capstan of the Turecamo Girls, a Moran tug (the "Tug"), by a towline under great pressure during an improperly conducted swing maneuver.

On November 15, 2013, judgment was found in favor of Claimant (the "Opinion"). On December 3, 2013, judgment was entered against the Petitioner in the amount of $2, 183, 478 (the "Judgment").

Petitioner moves under F.R.C.P. 59(e) to amend the Judgment entered herein to correct that part of the Judgment which awarded prejudgment interest on future losses.

For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's motion is granted.

Facts & Prior Proceedings

Familiarity with the general background of this case and prior litigation between the parties is assumed and set forth in this Court's November 18, 2013 Opinion. See In re Moran Towing, 2013 WL 6068454, at *35 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 18, 2013). Certain facts and allegations are repeated in part as relevant to the issue presented by the instant motion.

On November 15, 2013, judgment was granted in favor in Avril Young. With respect to prejudgment interest, this Court held the following:

Although the allowance of prejudgment interest in admiralty is said to be a matter committed to the trial court's discretion, see United States Willow Furniture Co. v. La Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, 271 F. 184, 186-87 (2 Cir. 1921); O'Donnell Transportation Co. v. City of New York, 215 F.2d 92, 94-95 (2d Cir. 1954), it should be granted in the absence of exceptional circumstances. See, e.g., Federal Ins. Co. v. Sabine Towing & Transp. Co., 783 F.2d 347, 352 n.4 ("In this Circuit, prejudgment interest will be denied in admiralty cases only under extraordinary circumstances"); The Wright, 109 F.2d 699, 702 (2d Cir. 1940); Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc. v. Richardson, 295 F.2d 583, 592-93 (2 Cir. 1961), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 989 (1962). Moran has not established any special circumstance why prejudgment interest should not be applied.

Prejudgment interest in this case is calculated using New York state law. Complaint of Dammers & Vanderheide & Scheepvaart Masts Christina B.V., 836 F.2d 750, 755 (2d Cir. 1988) ("when a lone claimant brings an action seeking an amount in excess of the limitation fund, the district court must lift the stay against other [state court] proceedings if that claimant concedes the admiralty court's exclusive jurisdiction to determine all issues relating to the limitation of liability.").

Avril Young as the single claimant could have proceeded in New York state court, where she would have been awarded the state statutory prejudgment interest rate on any damages award. It is thus reasonable to employ the same rate to the damages for which prejudgment interest are available as she would have received had she dissolved the stay on these proceedings and pursued her action in state court. Here, prejudgment interest is appropriate as to all claims, whether under the Jones Act or general maritime law. See Williams v. Reading & Bates Drilling Co., 750 F.2d 487, 491 (5th Cir. 1985) ("We hold, therefore, that when a Jones Act claim is brought under the court's admiralty jurisdiction, and hence the case is tried to the court and not the jury, the allowance of prejudgment interest is within the discretion of the trial court even if there is not a finding of unseaworthiness"); Webb v. TECO Barge Linc, Inc., 2012 WL 7800851, at *33 (S.D. Ill. 2012) (same); Benson v. Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc., 2011 WL 3794908, at *9 (M.D. La. Aug. 26, 2011) (same).
Under New York law, the rate of prejudgment interest is set at nine percent per annum. N.Y. C.P.L.R. ยง 5004. Claimant is therefore entitled to prejudgment interest at an annual rate of 9% measured from the date of Young's death, December 27, 2009. The dollar amount is calculated by multiplying the total amount of past damages by nine percent, then dividing that period by 365 (representing the days of a year) and multiplying that figure by ...

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