Schutt v. Alliance Marine Services LP, et al
ORDER AND REASONS: IT IS ORDERED that the Defendants' 24 MOTION for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings is GRANTED. Signed by Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle on 5/24/2017.(ajn)
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
ALLIANCE MARINE SERVICES LP, ET AL
ORDER AND REASONS
NATURE OF MOTION AND RELIEF SOUGHT
Before the Court are Defendants’ “Motion for Partial Judgment
on the Pleadings” (Rec. Doc. 24), Plaintiff’s “Opposition to Motion
Defendants’ “Reply Memorandum in Support of Certain Defendants’
Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings” (Rec. Doc. 32).For
the foregoing reasons, IT IS ORDERED that the Defendants’ Motion
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff alleges that he sustained significant personal
injuries while working aboard the floating production storage and
offloading unit TURRITELLA (Rec. Doc. 1). The Plaintiff filed a
Seaman’s Complaint for Damages and brought claims under the Jones
Act and general maritime law. (Rec. Doc. 1). In the Complaint
Defendants as a group pleading, “Plaintiff specifically alleges a
claim for punitive damages against the defendants herein based
upon General Maritime Law. This claim relates not only to any
maintenance and cure benefits but also for any gross negligence of
either defendant, or unseaworthiness of the vessel as may be
allowed under General Maritime Law.” (Rec. Doc. 1).
III. FACTUAL AND LEGAL FINDINGS
Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a
party to move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings
are closed but early enough so as not to delay trial. The standard
for deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) is the same as that for a motion to
Litigation, 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007). Accordingly, this
Court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and view them in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Baker v.
Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996). “To survive a motion to
accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal
quotation marks omitted). A claim is facially plausible “when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Factual allegations
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint
are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atl. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). However, “[a]
pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.’”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
In the Fifth Circuit a Jones Act seaman may not recover nonpecuniary damages against a non-employer third party under general
maritime law. Scarborough v. Clemco Indus., 391 F.3d 660, 668 (5th
Cir. 2004). In Scarborough, the Court relied on the United States
Supreme Court’s holding in Miles. v.Apex, Marine Corp., and it’s
articulation of the uniformity principle when holding that nonpecuniary damages were not permissible in this context. 498 U.S.
19, 32 (1990). The Fifth Circuit, sitting en banc, affirmed the
reasoning in Miles and explained that “[p]unitive damages, which
are designed to punish the wrongdoer rather than compensate the
victim, by definition are not pecuniary losses” and therefore
cannot be recovered under general maritime law or the Jones Act.
McBride v. Estis Well Serv., L.L.C., 768 F.3d 382, 391, (5th Cir.
Plaintiff argues that these cases are distinguishable from
the instant controversy because they both involve wrongful death
versus personal injury. However, Plaintiff has not cited any case
law that would indicate that controlling authority would treat the
issues of punitive damages different under personal injury claims
versus wrongful death. The crux of the appellate court’s decision
is based on punitive damages not being appropriate under the Jones
Act or General maritime law and therefore whether punitive damages
are based on wrongful death or personal injury, their impropriety
remains the same under both of the aforementioned legal schemes.
In addition, there is precedent from this Circuit where a
party’s punitive damages claims in a similar Jones Act personal
injury context were dismissed using the reasoning in Scarborough.
Howard v. Offshore Liftboats, LLC, Case No.: 13-4811, 2015 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 157173, at*10 (E.D. La. Nov. 19, 2015). Furthermore,
Judge Fallon has explained, “the Fifth Circuit has now made it
clear that under both the Jones Act and general maritime law, a
seaman's damages against both employers and non-employers are
limited to pecuniary losses. Thus, Plaintiff's claims for nonpecuniary
dismissed.” Wade v. Clemco Indus. Corp., Case No.: 16-502, 2017
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13580, at*14(E.D. La. Feb. 1, 2017). Given the
law in this circuit this Court finds that it is appropriate to
grant the Defendants’ Partial Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
regarding punitive damages.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 24th day of May 2017.
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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