Christie v. ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD. et al
Order On Objections to Magistrate Judge Order ; Overruling 51 Appeal/Objection of Magistrate Judge Order to District Court Signed by Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr on 2/18/2021. See attached document for full details. (cds) Modified action type/text on 2/18/2021 (asl).
Case 1:20-cv-22439-RNS Document 54 Entered on FLSD Docket 02/18/2021 Page 1 of 2
United States District Court
Southern District of Florida
William Christie, Plaintiff,
Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. and
) Civil Action No. 20-22439-Civ-Scola
Order On Objections to Magistrate Judge Order
On January 6, 2021, the Court referred the Plaintiff’s motion to strike
certain affirmative defenses raised by Defendants AGA Service Company and
Jefferson Insurance Company to United States Magistrate Judge Edwin G.
Torres, for a report or to be heard and determined, consistent with 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1), Federal Rule 72, and Rule 1 of the Local Magistrate Judge Rules.
This matter is now before the Court upon the Defendants’ objections to
Magistrate Judge Torres’s order granting the Plaintiff’s motion to strike. The
Court affirms the Magistrate Judge’s order.
Where a magistrate judge issues a non-dispositive order, the Court
reviews that order under a “clearly erroneous or contrary to law” standard. Fed.
R. Civ. P. 72(a); see Moore v. M/V Sunny USA, No. 18-81181-Civ, 2019 WL
7207109, at *4 (S.D. Fla. Dec. 27, 2019) (Altman, J.). A number of courts have
said that a ruling can be shown to be clearly erroneous only when it can be
concluded that the challenged decision is not “just maybe or probably wrong; it
must strike us with the force of a five-week-old, unrefrigerated dead fish.”
TFWS, Inc. v. Franchot, 572 F.3d 186, 194 (4th Cir. 2009). Put another way, a
finding is clearly erroneous, when “although there is evidence to support it, the
reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm
conviction that a mistake has been committed.” Holton v. City of Thomasville
Sch. Dist., 425 F.3d 1325, 1351-52 (11th Cir. 2005). An order is contrary to the
law when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law, or rules of
procedure. Barr v. One Touch Direct, LLC, No. 8:15-cv-2391, 2017 WL 749503,
at *2 (M.D. Fla. 2017).
The Court has reviewed the Magistrate Judge’s order, the parties’
briefing, and the relevant legal authorities and finds Magistrate Judge Torres’s
order to be well-reasoned and cogent and compelling. The crux of the
Defendants’ objection is that it was clear error and contrary to the law for
Magistrate Judge Torres to strike certain of their affirmative defenses on the
basis of the Magistrate Judge’s finding that “general maritime law applied to
Case 1:20-cv-22439-RNS Document 54 Entered on FLSD Docket 02/18/2021 Page 2 of 2
the plaintiff’s tort claims . . . and that the ‘Florida comparative fault rule
cannot apply and by extension that includes Fabre affirmative defenses.’” (ECF
No. 51, at 1-2.)
As Magistrate Judge Torres noted in his order, where admiralty
jurisdiction exists, a court may, but is not always compelled to apply general
maritime law to the entire case. (ECF No. 44, at 9-11.) For instance, a court
may choose not to apply maritime law “where ‘neither statutory nor judicially
created maritime principles provide an answer to a specific legal question” such
that “courts may apply state law provided that the application of state law does
not frustrate national interests in having uniformity in maritime law.’” (ECF No.
44, at 11 (quoting Coastal Fuels Mktg., Inc. v. Fla. Express Shipping Co., 207
F.3d 1247, 1251 (11th Cir. 2020). Here, the Court has found the Defendants
committed a tort independent from the parties’ contract under the undertaker’s
doctrine and as Judge Torres noted, where an injury occurs on navigable
waters, maritime law applies to the substantive issues in the case. (ECF No.
44, at 13 (discussing Everett v. Carnival Cruise Lines, 913 F.2d 1355, 1358
(11th Cir. 1990)). As maritime law applies to the Defendant’s tort, and the
Court may otherwise apply maritime law to this action because maritime law
applies with respect to the Plaintiff’s claims against Royal Caribbean, the Court
finds it was not clear error or contrary to the law for Magistrate Judge Torres to
grant the Plaintiff’s motion and strike certain of the Defendants’ affirmative
defenses on the basis that maritime law does not recognize the Florida
comparative fault rule and by extension the concept of a Fabre defense.
For the reasons set forth above, Magistrate Judge Torres’s ruling is
affirmed. The Defendants’ objections are overruled. (ECF No. 51.)
Done and ordered at Miami, Florida, on February 18, 2021.
Robert N. Scola, Jr.
United States District Judge
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