McGregor v. Cross Link, Inc. et al

Filing 135

ORDER by Judge Samuel Conti denying 87 Motion in Limine (sclc1, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/23/2010)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 v. CROSS LINK INC., dba WESTAR MARINE SERVICES, TAURUS MARINE INC. and DOES 1 through 10, inclusive, in personam, and M/V RANGER, and her engines, tackle, apparel, etc., in rem, Defendants. BRUCE A. McGREGOR, Plaintiff, ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) No. C-08-5001 SC ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' 10TH MOTION IN LIMINE TO EXCLUDE ANY REFERENCE TO 46 C.F.R. 183.430 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Defendants Cross Link, Inc. and Taurus Marine, Inc. ("Defendants") bring this Motion in Limine to exclude any evidence or testimony referring to 46 C.F.R. 183.430, the U.S. Coast Guard's Portable Lights Regulation for Small Passenger Vessels ("Section 183.430" or "the regulation"). Docket No. 87 ("Motion"). Plaintiff Bruce A. McGregor ("Plaintiff") filed an Opposition. Docket No. 113 ("Opp'n").1 DENIES this Motion. This action involves an incident that allegedly occurred aboard the RANGER, a motor vessel owned by Defendants. 1 For the following reasons, the Court Docket No. On June 18, 2010, Defendants filed a supplementary declaration in support of this Motion. Docket No. 128. Even though the filing of this declaration violates Civil Local Rule 7-3(d), the Court has considered it, and now rejects the arguments contained therein. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 For the Northern District of California 1 ("Compl.") 2. Plaintiff claims that he was injured while working as a deckhand aboard the RANGER, and that this injury was at least partly caused by Defendants' failure to provide adequate lighting on the vessel. Id. 11-12. The Complaint included a See Compl. cause of action under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 30104. Subchapter T of Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations collects and codifies U.S. Coast Guard regulations for the inspection and certificate of small passenger vessels. C.F.R. 175.100, 175.110(a). See 46 Part 183 of this subchapter 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 provides regulations relating to a small passenger vessel's "electrical equipment and systems including power sources, lighting, motors, miscellaneous equipment, and safety systems." 46 C.F.R. 183.100. Within this part, section 183.430 provides: Each vessel must be equipped with at least two operable portable battery lights. One of these lights must be located at the operating station and the other at the access to the propulsion machinery. 46 C.F.R. 183.430. Plaintiff argues that this regulation is relevant, because in a Jones Act case, a defendant's violation of a regulation implemented for the safety of its workers forecloses a finding of comparative fault, allowing a plaintiff to collect the full amount of his damages if he proves the violation was a cause of his injury. Fuszek v. Royal King Fisheries, Inc., 98 F.3d 514, 517-18 Plaintiff intends to prove at trial that United States District Court (9th Cir. 1996). Defendants failed to comply with the regulation, and that this failure caused Plaintiff's injury. Opp'n at 2. Defendants argue that another regulation, 46 C.F.R. 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 For the Northern District of California 183.130(a) ("section 183.130(a)" or "the exemption"), exempts the Ranger from the regulation. provides: A vessel, other than a high speed craft, of not more than 19.8 meters (65 feet) in length carrying not more than 12 passengers, may comply with the following requirements instead of complying with the requirements of this part in their entirety: (1) Section 183.420; and (2) The following American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) Projects where applicable: (i) E-8, "Alternating Current (AC) Electrical Systems on Boats;" (ii) E-9, "Direct Current (DC) Electrical Systems on Boats;" and (iii) A-16, "Electrical Navigation Lights." 46 C.F.R. 183.130(a). Defendants argue that because all parties agree that the RANGER is only 48.2 feet in length, is not a high-speed craft, and was carrying no passengers the time of the incident, the section 183.130(a) exemption applies, and section 183.430 does not apply. Mot. at 2-3. Plaintiff argues that the regulation does apply to the RANGER. Plaintiff notes that while there were only two people aboard the RANGER at the time of the incident, it "was a Coast Guard inspected passenger vessel certified to carry up to 49 passengers and crew," citing the RANGER's U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection, which Defendant attached as an exhibit to its Motion. 2; Mot. Ex. 1 ("Cert. of Inspection"). Opp'n at 1Mot. at 2. Section 183.130(a) 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 United States District Court Plaintiff contends: "Vessels are not permitted to go in and out of regulatory compliance depending on whether and how many passengers are on 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 For the Northern District of California board. Once the vessel is certified . . . it must maintain Opp'n at 2. compliance with all applicable Coast Guard standards." The Court agrees. The U.S. Coast Guard certified the RANGER to carry forty-nine passengers and two crew members, see Cert. of Inspection, and thus the boat was capable of carrying more than twelve passengers. In fact, the Certificate of Inspection required Id. A the RANGER to carry life preservers for fifty-two adults. vessel certified to accommodate more than twelve passengers cannot claim to be exempted under section 183.130 from U.S. Coast Guard regulations merely because it is carrying fewer than twelve passengers at a particular time. The legislative history for the 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 United States District Court exemption supports this reading: the U.S. Coast Guard's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for section 183.130 suggests this exemption applies only to vessels with "accommodations for up to 12 passengers." added). For the above reasons, the Court DENIES Defendants' 10th Motion in Limine to Exclude any Reference to 46 C.F.R. 183.430. Plaintiffs are not barred from discussing and introducing evidence of 46 C.F.R. 183.430 at trial. 54 Fed. Reg. 4412-01, 4420 (Jan. 30, 1989) (emphasis IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: June 23, 2010 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 4

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