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In re Complaint of Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. New York

July 26, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF THE COMPLAINT of TAPPAN ZEE CONSTRUCTORS, LLC, as owner of 2007 Lobell Boat, Serial No. L0A11504J607, for exoneration from or limitation of liability, Petitioner.

          FLICKER, GARELICK & ASSOCIATES, LLP Attorneys for Petitioner

          BRENDAN E. MCKEON, ESQ., KEITH L. FLICKER, ESQ., STEVEN M. MELLEY, ESQ.

          MELLEY, PLATANIA LAW FIRM Attorneys for Claimant

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

          Mae A. D'Agostino, U.S. District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On February 14, 2017, Petitioner Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC, filed a Complaint for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability regarding 2007 Lobell Boat, Serial Number L0A11504J607 ("Work Boat 01"), [1] pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 30505, et seq., and Rule F of the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions for any damages and/or injuries caused by or resulting from an incident occurring on or about September 17, 2013, in the navigable waters of the Hudson River. See Dkt. No. 1-2. Petitioner sought approval of an Ad Interim Security Bond as security, a restraint on all actions and proceedings against it, and the requisite publication of notice. See Id. at ¶ 1. On March 17, 2017, the Court granted Petitioner's motions to approve security, enjoin suits, and direct issue of notice. See Dkt. No. 6.

         Currently before the Court is Claimant Timothy Marion's renewed motion to vacate the injunction and lift the stay of state court action, which would allow Claimant to proceed with the state court action dated April 10, 2018. See Dkt. No. 23. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner is a foreign limited liability company with a principal place of business in Tarrytown, New York. See Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 2. At all relevant times, Petitioner was the registered owner of Work Boat 01. See Id. Claimant is a resident of Lloyd, New York, and was employed by Petitioner. See Dkt. No. 1-2. Claimant was assigned to and operated Work Boat 01. See id. While operating Work Boat 01 on September 17, 2013, Claimant sustained traumatic injuries requiring medical and surgical care. See id. On or about August 15, 2016, Claimant named Petitioner in a personal injury lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Ulster County. See Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 3.

         On February 14, 2017, Petitioner filed a Complaint for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability, pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 30505, et seq., and Rule F of the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions for any damages and/or injuries caused by or resulting from an incident occurring on or about September 17, 2013, in the navigable waters of the Hudson River. See Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 1. Petitioner denies that Claimant's injuries resulted from "any fault, neglect or want of care on the part of Petitioner." Id. at ¶ 7. Petitioner further asserts that the incident in question was not due to any unseaworthy conditions of the vessel and occurred without Petitioner's privity or knowledge. See id. at ¶¶ 7-9.

         Finding that Petitioner complied with Rule F(1), the Court granted Petitioner's motions to approve security, enjoin suits, and direct issue of notice. See Dkt. No. 6. The Court ordered notice to "all persons asserting claims or suits with respect to which the Complaint seeks limitation, admonishing them to file their respective claims with the Clerk, in writing, and to serve on the attorneys for the Petitioner a copy thereof, on or before May 1, 2017." Id. at 3. On April 25, 2017, Claimant filed an answer to Petitioner's claim without an accompanying or subsequently filed claim. See Dkt. No. 8.

         On May 1, 2017, Claimant filed his motion to vacate the injunction and lift the stay of the state court action. See Dkt. No. 13. Claimant contends that as a "single claimant," state court is the appropriate forum. See Dkt. No. 13-1 at 1. On May 17, 2017, Petitioner filed a cross-motion for entry of default against Claimant for "fail[ure] to plead or otherwise defend" his case, contending that merely filing an answer in lieu of a claim is insufficient to meet the requirements of Rule F. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a); Dkt. No. 14. Petitioner asserted that Claimant consequently lacked standing, and that he was unable to bring a motion to vacate. See Dkt. No. 14-1 at 3.

         In its March 6, 2018 Memorandum-Decision and Order ("March Order"), the Court denied Claimant's motion to vacate the injunction without prejudice, ordered that Claimant file a claim with this Court pursuant to Rule F within fourteen days of the filing date, and denied Petitioner's motion for default judgment. See Dkt. No. 19. On March 7, 2018, Claimant filed a verified claim required by Rule F in accordance with the Court's March Order. See Dkt. No. 20. In addition, Claimant filed stipulations and a supplemental memorandum of law in support of his renewed motion to vacate the injunction and lift the stay of the state court action. See Dkt. No. 23-6 at 2; Dkt. No. 23-1. Petitioner filed an opposition, and Claimant filed a reply. See Dkt. Nos. 25, 26.

         III. ...


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