Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:An allision is a collision between a moving vessel and a stationary object. This case stems from an allision between M/V Diane Oak, a vessel now owned and operated by Teco Barge Line Inc., and a wharf owned by Dow Chemical Co. The allision caused severe damage to the wharf. M/V Diane Oak filed a petition for limitation of liability; Dow countered by filing a claim in the limitation proceeding seeking recovery of the damages sustained from the allision. M/V Diane Oak brought suit in rem against three other vessels and in personam against related interests, alleging that those vessels had so embarrassed her navigation as to be contributory and proximate causes of the allision and thus deserving of some liability for the damages incurred by Dow. After a bench trial solely on the question of liability, the district court found that the M/V Diane Oak was solely at fault for the allision. M/V Diane Oak timely appealed contending that the district court: 1. erroneously applied a presumption of fault against her; 2. erroneously relied on the “last clear chance” doctrine to excuse negligence on the part of the other vessels; and 3. failed to properly apply controlling principles of proximate causation and comparative fault amongst all of the vessels. HOLDING:Affirmed. Even though the district court may have framed its breach analysis through the lens of the Oregon rule, set forth in The Oregon, 158 U.S. 186 (1895), the district court nevertheless made findings of duty, breach and causation regarding M/V Diane Oak and each of the other three vessels independent of that presumption that account for the result it reached. These findings properly cabined the scope of the Oregon rule, which speaks explicitly only to a presumed breach on the part of the alliding vessel and is not a presumption regarding either the question of causation (either cause in fact or legal cause) or the percentages of fault assigned parties adjudged negligent. The district court’s reasoning does not indicate a finding of fault against all of the vessels in causing the accident or that the court excused certain fault on the part of M/V Gotland Spirit and M/V Ginny Stone because that fault was slight relative to the fault the court attributed to M/V Diane Oak. The district court found that any negligent conduct of these two vessels, assuming that either vessel was negligent, was not a proximate cause of the subsequent allision. Thus the district court applied a valid rule of legal causation, not a rule of major or minor fault as the traditional (and discredited) last clear chance cases did. M/V Diane Oak contends that the district court’s finding that she was solely at fault for the allision is clearly erroneous. M/V Diane Oak claims that the district court failed to consider the various violations of the Inland Rules committed by the other three vessels, and thus failed to apply the presumption of cause in fact announced in The Pennsylvania, 86 U.S. 125 (1873). She charges error to the district court’s failure to apply the Pennsylvania rule, by which a vessel in derogation of a statutory rule bears the burden of demonstrating that its fault could not have been the cause in fact of the casualty. The court concludes that the district court correctly recognized that fault in the abstract does not give rise to liability. Instead, the fault must be a contributory and proximate cause of the damages sustained. The court is not convinced that the district court made a mistake when it concluded that the allison between the M/V Diane Oak and the Dow wharf was not proximately caused by the actions of the M/V Ginny Stone and the M/V Gotland Spirit. The district court was not mistaken when it found that the M/V Donau’s actions did not embarrass M/V Diane Oak’s navigation such that those actions proximately caused the allision, the court concludes. OPINION:James L. Dennis, J.; Smith, Dennis and Prado, JJ.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.