Neptune Shipmanagement Services (Pte.), Ltd. et al v. Dahiya
ORDER AND REASONS - IT IS ORDERED that plaintiffs' 16 Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. The Arbitration Award dated January 25, 2020 and attached to the plaintiffs' complaint as Exhibit B is hereby CONFIRMED in accordance with 9:20 7; That all pending or future legal actions arising from the personal injuries the defendant sustained while aboard the M/T EAGLE AUSTIN in 1999 are PERMANENTLY ENJOINED; and That the Clerk of Court shall close Civil Action Number 20-1527 in light of this Order. That the Letter of Undertaking issued by plaintiff Britannia Steam Ship Insurance Association Ltd. shall be null and void upon the plaintiffs' satisfaction of the Arbitration Award. Signed by Judge Martin L.C. Feldman on 10/14/2020. (sa)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
NEPTUNE SHIPMANAGEMENT SERVICES (PTE.), LTD.,
VINOD KUMAR DAHIYA
ORDER AND REASONS
For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.
In this protracted litigation spanning multiple decades, 1 the
plaintiffs 2 seek to confirm a much-awaited arbitration award.
Despite the fact that that award represents a hard-fought (and
sizable) monetary victory for the defendant Vinod Kumar Dahiya,
The twists and turns of this personal injury litigation are
well known by the parties and the Court. As such, in the interest
of efficiency, the Court assumes familiarity with the background
outlined in the orders and reasons previously issued in this case
and its most recent companion (case number 20-1527).
The plaintiffs in this case, which the Court has dubbed the
“Vessel Interests,” are Neptune Shipmanagement Services (PTE.),
Ltd., Talmidge International Ltd., American Eagle Tankers, Inc.,
American Eagle Tankers Agencies, Inc., and Britannia Steam Ship
Insurance Association Ltd.
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Dahiya presses on in an increasingly quixotic bid to win greater
damages in the United States.
The Court ends that effort today.
As detailed below, the
Vessel Interests are indeed entitled to summary judgment.
entitlement to three related remedies: (1) a judicial confirmation
barring Dahiya from any further attempts to relitigate the Award
or prosecute other claims relating to the 1999 accident that
underlies this litigation, and (3) a declaratory judgment that a
Letter of Undertaking (LOU) issued by plaintiff Britannia Steam
Ship Insurance Association Ltd. will be, upon the plaintiffs’
satisfaction of the enforced Award, a legal nullity.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary
judgment is appropriate if the record reveals no genuine dispute
as to any material fact such that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.
No genuine dispute of fact exists if
the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of
fact to find for the nonmoving party.
See Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).
dispute of fact exists only “if the evidence is such that a
Case 2:20-cv-01525-MLCF-JVM Document 31 Filed 10/14/20 Page 3 of 18
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
The Supreme Court has emphasized that the mere assertion of
a factual dispute does not defeat an otherwise properly supported
As such, if evidence favoring the nonmoving party
“is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative,” summary
judgment may be appropriate. Id. at 249–50 (citation omitted).
Summary judgment is also proper if the party opposing the motion
fails to establish an essential element of its case.
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322–23 (1986).
In this regard,
the nonmoving party must do more than simply deny the allegations
raised by the moving party.
See Donaghey v. Ocean Drilling & Expl.
Co., 974 F.2d 646, 649 (5th Cir. 1992).
Rather, it must come
evidence and unsworn documents that cannot be presented in a form
that would be admissible at trial do not qualify as competent
FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(2); Martin v. John W.
Stone Oil Distrib., Inc., 819 F.2d 547, 549 (5th Cir. 1987) (per
Finally, in evaluating a summary judgment motion, the
Court must read the facts in the light most favorable to the
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.
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Applying the foregoing framework to the Vessel Interests’
motion is relatively straightforward.
As explained below, summary
judgment is appropriate here because three plain legal conclusions
flow directly from incontrovertible facts: first, that the Award
is indeed subject to confirmation by this Court as a matter of
federal law; second, that the Court’s confirmation of the Award is
binding on all parties to this litigation; and third, that the
binding nature of that outcome precludes Dahiya’s efforts to seek
some other result.
These legal realities entitle the Vessel Interests to summary
judgment on all issues presented by the motion.
First, the Award
can – and in fact must – be enforced by this Court.
Court’s enforcement of the Award settles this dispute as to all
parties and claims, and as a result, merits permanent enjoinment
of any attempts to disregard or upset that settlement.
the Court’s final enforcement of the Award will render the LOU
issued by Britannia a dead letter upon Dahiya’s receipt of the
The Court expounds on each of these findings in turn.
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The first issue raised by the Vessel Interests’ motion is
whether the Award falls under the Convention on the Recognition
and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, as adopted in Title 9
of the U.S. Code.
If so, the Award is presumptively subject to
the Court’s confirmation as a matter of federal law.
If not, the
Vessel Interests’ action is dead on arrival.
The Fifth Circuit has succinctly framed the issue on this
threshold question as follows:
The Convention applies when an arbitral award has
been made in one state and recognition or enforcement is
sought in another state. . . . [And an] award’s
implemented at 9 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., if the award
arises out of a commercial dispute and at least one party
is not a United States citizen.
Asignacion v. Rickmers Genoa Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH &
Cie KG, 783 F.3d 1010, 1015 (5th Cir. 2015).
As this Court has previously explained, in the complaint on
which they now seek summary judgment,
the Vessel Interests allege that an arbitral award has
been issued in one signatory state (India) and seek
enforcement of that award in another signatory state
(the United States); and, they allege that that award
arises from a commercial dispute and includes as a party
at least one non-U.S. citizen (Dahiya).
Neptune Shipmanagement Servs. (PTE.), Ltd. v. Dahiya, 2020 WL
5545689, at *2 (E.D. La. Sept. 16, 2020) (footnote omitted). These
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allegations are indisputably true. 3
Therefore, under 9 U.S.C.
§ 207, the Court “shall confirm” the Award, unless it “finds one
enforcement of the award specified in the . . . Convention.”
The Fifth Circuit has supplied another tidy framework for
“Under the Convention, ‘the country in which . .
. an award was made’ is said to have primary jurisdiction over the
All other signatory states are secondary jurisdictions, in
which parties can only contest whether the state should enforce
the arbitral award.”
Karaha Bodas Co. v. Perusahaan Pertambangan
Minyak Dan Gas Bumi Negara, 364 F.3d 274, 287 (5th Cir. 2004)
Pertambangan Minyak Dan Gas Bumi Negara, 335 F.3d 357, 364 (5th
Accordingly, the United States is indisputably a
Five pertinent facts are beyond dispute on the record before
the Court: (1) that the Award was issued in India, (2) that
enforcement of the Award is being sought here, in the United
States, (3) that India and the United States are signatories to
the Convention, (4) that Dahiya is not a U.S. citizen, and (5) that
the Award arises from an inherently “commercial” dispute between
an employee and his employer. See Francisco v. STOLT ACHIEVEMENT
MT, 293 F.3d 270, 274 (5th Cir. 2002) (observing that seamen
employment contracts are “commercial” within the meaning of the
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country of secondary jurisdiction with regard to the Award at
“[C]ourts in countries of secondary jurisdiction may refuse
enforcement only on the grounds specified in Article V.”
288; see also OJSC Ukrnafta v. Carpatsky Petroleum Corp., 957 F.3d
487, 497 (5th Cir. 2020) (“As a secondary jurisdiction, we can
deny enforcement only on a ground listed in Article V.
construe the Article V defenses ‘narrowly  “to encourage the
recognition and enforcement of commercial arbitration agreements
in international contracts.”’” (alteration in original) (footnote
omitted) (quoting Karaha II, 364 F.3d at 288)).
No such grounds
are present here. 5 Dahiya’s repeated assertions – made at multiple
stages of this litigation, including Dahiya’s state-court motion
to reinstate a defunct state-court judgment to the exclusion of
the Award, as well as Dahiya’s opposition to the present motion –
as to the supposed invalidity of the agreement to arbitrate in
There is no question that India is the country in which the
Award was made. See, e.g., Mot., Ex. A-1.
The Vessel Interests argue that the Court need not even reach
In their view, the Court need not consider the
merits of any possible defenses to the Convention’s application
because Dahiya has waived such defenses by his failure to bring
them in a timely fashion. While this may indeed be true, the Court
declines to address that issue because all defenses Dahiya has
urged are meritless in any event.
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Dahiya’s Deed are disorganized and unpersuasive.
courts sitting in secondary jurisdiction under the Convention may
To the contrary, they are bound to observe
the resounding public policy in favor of arbitration, as confirmed
in countless federal cases and by the United States’ adoption of
the Convention itself. It is for this reason that federal district
“extraordinarily narrow” fashion.
See, e.g., Asignacion, 783 F.3d
at 1015 (“A district court’s review of an award is ‘extraordinarily
narrow.’” (quoting Kergosien v. Ocean Energy, Inc., 390 F.3d 346,
352 (5th Cir. 2004))); Karaha II, 364 F.3d at 306 (noting that
Article V’s catch-all public policy defense is “to be applied only
where enforcement would violate the forum state’s most basic
notions of morality and justice” (quoting M & C Corp. v. Erwin
Behr GmbH & Co., KG, 87 F.3d 844, 851 n.2 (6th Cir. 1996))).
Proceeding to the merits here, the Court sees no legitimate
basis for overriding the Award in service of Dahiya’s quest to
achieve greater damages in yet further prosecution of this 20year-old litigation.
Ultimately, Dahiya is the beneficiary of an
arbitration agreement that has already been deemed enforceable by
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scattershot attempts to evade confirmation of an award under that
very agreement ring particularly hollow.
Dahiya’s principal ground for opposing the Vessel Interests’
motion for summary judgment relates to the extension of the Award
to nonparties to Dahiya’s Deed (and the arbitration agreement
In Dahiya’s view, the analysis on this point is quite
Shipmanagement Services (PTE.), Ltd. are party to Dahiya’s Deed,
none of the Vessel Interests but Neptune have standing to seek
confirmation of the Award rendered under such Deed.
This contention is unavailing for two reasons.
For one, it
preclusive determination that Dahiya was required to arbitrate his
claims against all of the Vessel Interests.
Indeed, a close
analogue of Dahiya’s argument on this point was rejected by the
Louisiana Fourth Circuit on multiple occasions.
See Dahiya, 931
So. 2d at 1173 (holding that “the defendants’ Exceptions of No
Right of Action, Improper Venue and Arbitration should have been
See Dahiya v. Talmidge Int’l Ltd., 931 So. 2d 1163 (La. App.
4th Cir. 2006).
Case 2:20-cv-01525-MLCF-JVM Document 31 Filed 10/14/20 Page 10 of 18
added)); Mot., Ex. E at 4–6 (similar arguments in application for
rehearing that was subsequently denied).
On remand after those
rejections, the Louisiana District Court followed suit and stayed
the case as to all defendants pending arbitration – in spite of
Dahiya’s argument that a stay should lie with respect to Neptune
See Mot., Exs. G at 1, F at 10–12.
Perhaps more importantly though, the doctrine of equitable
estoppel provides that an entity need not be a formal signatory to
enforce an agreement to arbitrate in certain circumstances.
Grigson v. Creative Artists Agency L.L.C., the Fifth Circuit
explicitly adopted the “intertwined-claims test formulated by the
Eleventh Circuit” for use in situations just like this.
524, 527 (5th Cir. 2000).
That doctrine, now twenty years old in
this circuit, provides that equitable estoppel
is warranted when the signatory to a contract containing
substantially interdependent and concerted misconduct by
both the nonsignatory and one or more of the signatories
to the contract. Otherwise the arbitration proceedings
meaningless and the federal policy in favor of
arbitration effectively thwarted.
Id. (emphasis omitted) (quoting MS Dealer Serv. Corp. v. Franklin,
177 F.3d 942, 947 (11th Cir. 1999)).
“interdependent” for purposes of this litigation, as all are
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entities and insurers bearing some practical or legal connection
to the injuries Dahiya suffered while aboard the M/T EAGLE AUSTIN
Consequently, because Dahiya’s Deed obligates him to
arbitrate his personal injury claims with respect to that incident
against one Vessel Interest, Dahiya is equitably estopped from
disclaiming the outcome and findings of that arbitration as against
the other Vessel Interests. 7
The Fourth Circuit case of Aggarao
v. MOL Ship Management Co. provides a direct parallel.
355 (4th Cir. 2012).
There, the court applied the equitable
estoppel doctrine where a seaman’s claims against signatory and
nonsignatory entities alike arose from “the same ‘occurrence’ or
‘incident,’ i.e., the tragic circumstances on the Asian Spirit in
August 2008 resulting in [the plaintiff’s] injuries.”
See id. at
For the same reasons, Dahiya’s assertion that the Award
is binding solely as between him and Neptune is incorrect.
Accordingly, the indisputable facts before the Court allow
just one conclusion on the central issue raised by the Vessel
There is very good reason for this. Perhaps the most obvious
is the avoidance of overlapping litigation and the corresponding
possibility of conflicting results and/or double recoveries.
Indeed, the claims and issues in an arbitration with some Vessel
Interests, and a legal action with others, would obviously mirror
each other in many key respects.
In either dispute resolution
forum, the tribunal would need to get to the bottom of what
actually occurred, who is to blame, what is needed to make the
plaintiff whole, and the like.
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Interests’ complaint and motion for summary judgment: The Award is
legally binding as between Dahiya and each of the Vessel Interests,
and the Court is compelled to confirm it as such under 9 U.S.C.
confirmation of the Award.
In their motion, the Vessel Interests
urge the Court to impose a permanent injunction to bar Dahiya from
any further attempts to relitigate the Award or the underlying
The Court agrees that a permanent injunction is
To obtain a permanent injunction, the Vessel Interests “must
show: (1) success on the merits; (2) the failure to grant the
injunction will result in irreparable injury; (3) the injury
outweighs any damage that the injunction will cause the opposing
United Motorcoach Ass’n v. City of Austin, 851 F.3d
489, 492–93 (5th Cir. 2017).
Each of those elements is met here.
Actual Success on the Merits
The Court’s confirmation of the Award accords the Vessel
Interests actual success on the merits in this action.
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confirmation and the corresponding finality it promotes are the
principal remedies the Vessel Interests seek.
For the reasons
discussed in Section I.A, the Vessel Interests have prevailed on
the merits of that claim.
personal injury claim and this Court’s confirmation of the Award
Dahiya received in that arbitration have conclusively resolved
Dahiya’s legal entitlements with respect to the 1999 accident at
Indeed, where a plaintiff suffers an injury, is ordered to
arbitrate his claims with respect to that injury, does in fact
confirmed by a federal court of competent jurisdiction, his claim
has in all senses been fully litigated and finally determined.
Such is the case for Dahiya here.
In a similar vein, the Vessel Interests will be irreparably
harmed if they are forced to continue in never-ending litigation
of Dahiya’s futile attempts to resurrect a defunct state-court
judgment and set aside a confirmed arbitration award.
Balance of the Equities
For similar reasons, the equities firmly favor the Vessel
Interests’ plea for an injunction.
While the Vessel Interests are
Case 2:20-cv-01525-MLCF-JVM Document 31 Filed 10/14/20 Page 14 of 18
asking to pay Dahiya the damages he was granted in arbitration,
Dahiya is resisting that attempt to the collective detriment and
expense of virtually everyone else.
The ultimate fact of the matter is that the Louisiana courts
determined that Dahiya was legally obligated to arbitrate his
claims against the Vessel Interests.
Dahiya did so, in his home
country, and received a substantial award.
As such, there is no
good reason for Dahiya to draw this decades-long litigation out
To the contrary, there is compelling good reason for
the Vessel Interests to seek this injunction.
In the absence of an injunction, the Vessel Interests will be
forced to engage in needless expenditures of time and money.
the issuance of an injunction, Dahiya will receive a substantial
amount of money that – in the view of a good-faith arbitrator –
makes him whole.
Because Dahiya’s forlorn attempts to achieve a different
outcome would also cost the courts and the taxpayers money, the
public interest decisively favors an injunction as well.
public also has an interest in the observance and enforcement of
valid arbitration agreements, as articulated by Congress.
e.g., 9 U.S.C. § 2.
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The Anti-Injunction Act Does Not Preclude an Injunction
The Anti-Injunction Act does not bar the Court from enjoining
parallel state-court proceedings regarding Dahiya’s 1999 injury.
The Act explicitly provides that “[a] court of the United States
may not grant an injunction to stay proceedings in a State court
except . . . where necessary . . . to protect or effectuate its
28 U.S.C. § 2283.
For this reason, “it is well
settled among the circuit courts . . . which have reviewed the
grant of an antisuit injunction that the federal courts have the
prosecuting foreign suits.”
Kaepa, Inc. v. Achilles Corp., 76
F.3d 624, 626–27 (5th Cir. 1996) (also observing “the need to
prevent vexatious or oppressive litigation”).
Here, a failure to
anything but “protect or effectuate” this Court’s judgment –
instead, it would do just the opposite, by allowing Dahiya to
collaterally attack the Award and this Court’s confirmation of it.
A federal district court is well within its authority to enjoin
vexatious parallel proceedings in such a situation.
The Vessel Interests lastly request a declaratory judgment
that the Letter of Undertaking issued by plaintiff Britannia Steam
Case 2:20-cv-01525-MLCF-JVM Document 31 Filed 10/14/20 Page 16 of 18
Ship Insurance Association Ltd. must be canceled and returned to
Britannia upon the Vessel Interests’ satisfaction of the Award.
The Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201–02, “offers
the court an opportunity to afford a plaintiff equitable relief
when legal relief is not yet available to him, so as to avoid
parties’ legal obligations.”
Venator Grp. Specialty, Inc. v.
Matthew/Muniot Family, LLC, 322 F.3d 835, 839–40 (5th Cir. 2003).
While courts must take care to avoid issuing advisory opinions on
nevertheless “must  assess the likelihood that future [harmful]
events will occur.”
Id. at 840.
In service of this equitable imperative, the Declaratory
Judgment Act specifically authorizes federal courts to “declare
the legal rights and other legal relations of any interested party
seeking such relief” “[i]n a case of actual controversy within its
28 U.S.C. § 2201.
The jurisdictional predicate
for this action is clear; the Vessel Interests’ principal claim
(for judicial confirmation of a foreign arbitration award) arises
under federal law.
See U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2; 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
See, e.g., U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2 (confining the federal
judicial power to cases and controversies).
Case 2:20-cv-01525-MLCF-JVM Document 31 Filed 10/14/20 Page 17 of 18
Therefore, the Court has discretion to “declare the legal rights”
of Britannia as it deems appropriate.
Here, the circumstances plainly warrant the relatively modest
and straightforward declaration the Vessel Interests seek.
the possibility that Dahiya might refuse to honor this ruling and
void the LOU on his own accord is exceedingly remote, declaring
once and for all that Dahiya must indeed do so does not prejudice
decades-old litigation to an end.
The undisputed facts in this case paint a clear picture.
When the Louisiana state courts required Dahiya to honor his
agreement to arbitrate his personal injury claims relating to a
1999 accident aboard the M/T EAGLE AUSTIN, Dahiya proceeded to
That arbitration yielded a substantial Award for
When Dahiya laid renewed claim to a greater damages award
which was initially granted but subsequently vacated in Louisiana
state court, the Vessel Interests brought this federal action in
an effort to confirm the Award Dahiya received in arbitration.
The Court is required to confirm the Award as a matter of federal
law, and because it has done so, the parties’ legal relations with
regard to the 1999 accident have been finally determined and fixed.
Case 2:20-cv-01525-MLCF-JVM Document 31 Filed 10/14/20 Page 18 of 18
That reality merits the Court’s enjoinment of all parallel actions
relating to the 1999 accident, and counsels in favor of the Court’s
declaration of the parties’ legal rights concerning the Letter of
Undertaking plaintiff Britannia issued in relation to the same.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED:
That the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment is
That the Arbitration Award dated January 25, 2020 and
attached to the plaintiffs’ complaint as Exhibit B is hereby
CONFIRMED in accordance with 9 U.S.C. § 207;
That all pending or future legal actions arising from
the personal injuries the defendant sustained while aboard the M/T
EAGLE AUSTIN in 1999 are PERMANENTLY ENJOINED; and
That the Clerk of Court shall close Civil Action Number
20-1527 in light of this Order.
And, IT IS DECLARED:
Britannia Steam Ship Insurance Association Ltd. shall be null and
void upon the plaintiffs’ satisfaction of the Arbitration Award.
New Orleans, Louisiana, October 14, 2020
MARTIN L. C. FELDMAN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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