Archer Daniels Midland Company et al v. Research Fumigation Co., LLC et al
ORDER AND REASONS that Plaintiffs' 9 Motion to Strike Jury Trial Demand of Third-Party Defendant is GRANTED. Signed by Judge Eldon E. Fallon on 8/10/2017. (cms)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
ARCHER DANIELS MIDLAND CO., ET AL
RESEARCH FUMIGATION CO., LLC, ET AL.
SECTION L (3)
ORDER & REASONS
Before the Court is Plaintiffs Archer Daniels Midland Co. (“ADM”), ADM Export Co.
(“ADM Export”), and ADM International Sarl (“ADMI”) (hereafter collectively “Plaintiffs”),
Motion to Strike Jury Trial Demand of Defendants Research Fumigation Co., LLC, and
Imperium Insurance Company (hereafter collectively “Defendants”), R. Doc. 9. Defendants have
not opposed the motion. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs’ Motion is GRANTED.
BACKGROUND AND PRESENT MOTION
Plaintiffs bring this action for breach of contract and tort to recover damages in relation
to a fire which occurred in the cargo hold of the M/V LORENTZOS, a bulk cargo carrier
Plaintiff ADM had chartered at the time of the accident.
Plaintiffs, ADM and ADM Export, are Delaware corporations with their principal places
of business in Illinois. Plaintiff ADMI, is a Swiss corporation, with its principal place of business
in Switzerland. ADM Export and ADMI are both subsidiaries of ADM. Defendant Research
Fumigation is an LLC organized under Louisiana law, with a principal place of business in
Reserve, Louisiana. Each member of Research Fumigations is a Louisiana citizen. Defendant
Imperium is a Delware corporation authorized to conduct business in Louisiana. Imperium was
Research Fumigation’s commercial general liability insurer during the relevant time period. R.
Doc. 1 at 2.
According to Plaintiff, AMD International chartered the M/V LORENTZOS, a bulk
cargo carrier, in order to transfer grain from Destrehan, Louisiana to South Korea. R. Doc. 9-1 at
1. At the time of transfer, the M/V LORENTZOS was loaded with bulk grain cargo which was
being exported to a foreign purchaser. R. Doc. 9-1 at 2. Before leaving Destrehan, ADM
International contracted with Defendant Research Fumigation, who fumigated the cargo for in
transit fumigation. R. Doc. 9-1 at 2. While at sea, the vessel had a fire in cargo hold number one,
which Plaintiffs aver was caused by “the improper application of fumigant.” R. Doc. 9-1 at 2.
Plaintiffs did not make a jury demand in their original Complaint and specifically
designated this action as a matter falling within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the
Court under Rule 9(h). Defendants answered, and asserted that “they are entitled to and do
hereby request a trial by jury.” R. Doc. 8.
Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Strike Jury Trial Demand, R. Doc. 9. Plaintiffs claim that
jurisdiction in the instant matter is squarely within the Court’s admiralty and maritime and
Plaintiffs have pled the matter as a proceeding under Rule 9(h). Accordingly, Plaintiffs argue
that Defendants’ demand for jury trial should be stricken.
LAW & ANALYSIS
In the present matter, it is undisputed that Plaintiffs have designated their claims against
Defendants as claims in admiralty under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(h), thereby invoking
their right to a non-jury trial. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(h) provides that,
If a claim for relief is within the admiralty or maritime jurisdiction and also within the
court's subject-matter jurisdiction on some other ground, the pleading may designate the
claim as an admiralty or maritime claim for purposes of Rules 14(c), 38(e), and 82 and
the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions.
A claim cognizable only in the admiralty or maritime jurisdiction is an admiralty or
maritime claim for those purposes, whether or not so designated.
Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 9(h). Because Plaintiffs have designated these claims under admiralty and
maritime jurisdiction pursuant Rule 9(h), there is no right to have these claims tried by a jury.
Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 38(e); Rachal v. Ingram Corp., 795 F.2d 1210, 1216 (5th Cir. 1986).
As this Court has stated previously,
[W]hen a plaintiff properly designates his claim as one that is in admiralty and
thereby invokes the court’s admiralty jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 9(h), the court
is to adjudicate the claim without a jury. See, e.g., Harrison v. Flota Mercante
Grancolombiana, S.A., 577 F.2d 968, 986–87 (5th Cir. 1978). As the Fifth Circuit
has explained, there is “no right to a jury trial when the complaint contains a
statement identifying the claim as an admiralty or maritime claim, even though
[another basis for] jurisdiction exists as well.” T.N.T. Marine Serv., Inc. v. Weaver
Shipyards & Dry Docks, Inc., 702 F.2d 585, 587 (5th Cir. 1983); accord Durden
v. Exxon Corp., 803 F.2d 845, 849 n. 10 (5th Cir. 1986); Rachal, 795 F.2d at
1216; Harrison, 577 F.2d at 986–87; Romero, 515 F.2d at 1252.
Raffray v. Gulf Logistics, L.L.C., 2010 WL 5055849 (E.D. La. Dec. 2, 2010). Further, the fact
that an alternate basis for subject-matter jurisdiction may exist is inconsequential. See id.
Defendants have not provided any explanation for why admiralty jurisdiction is improper. Thus,
Defendants’ request for a trial by jury was improper, and the Court will grant Plaintiffs’ Motion
For the foregoing reasons, IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ Motion to Strike Jury Trial
Demand of Third-Party Defendant, R. Doc. 9, is GRANTED.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 10th day of August, 2017.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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