Gouin v. Boston Harbor Cruises, Inc. et al
Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton: ENDORSED ORDER entered. MEMORANDUM AND ORDER. In accordance with the foregoing, defendant's motion for partial summary judgment (Docket No. 70) is DENIED and defendant's motion to strike (Docket No. 78) is DENIED AS MOOT.So ordered.(Franklin, Yvonne)
United States District Court
District of Massachusetts
Nolan Associates, LLC d/b/a
Boston Harbor Cruises,
Civil Action No.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
This case arises out of an accident that occurred in Boston
Harbor when M/V CODZILLA allegedly hit the wake of a passing
vessel causing a passenger, plaintiff Kathryn Gouin (“plaintiff”
or “Gouin”), to injure her back.
Plaintiff alleges, pursuant to
general maritime law, that defendant Nolan Associates, LLC d/b/a
Boston Harbor Cruises (“defendant” or “BHC”) was negligent in
operating the vessel and failing to warn passengers of the risk
Pending before the Court are defendant’s motions for
partial summary judgment and to strike.
follow, those motions will be denied.
For the reasons that
On or about August 3, 2014, Kathryn Gouin boarded M/V
CODZILLA (“the vessel”), a 65-foot vessel owned and operated by
Nolan Associates, LLC, for a cruise in the Boston Harbor.
some point during the excursion, the vessel hit either a rogue
wave or the wake of a passing vessel.
Gouin alleges that the
turbulence threw her into the air and that when she fell back
into her seat she sustained serious injuries, including a
compression fracture of her L2 vertebrae.
In March, 2016, Gouin filed a complaint against Nolan
Associates, LLC and Boston Harbor Cruises, Inc.
She amended her
complaint in May, 2016, and dismissed Boston Harbor Cruises,
Inc. upon discovering that it had been dissolved in or about
The amended complaint alleges two counts against Nolan
Associates, LLC, now doing business as Boston Harbor Cruises:
negligence (Count I) and gross negligence (Count II).
Defendant’s motion for partial summary judgment
The role of summary judgment is “to pierce the pleadings
and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a
genuine need for trial.” Mesnick v. Gen. Elec. Co., 950 F.2d
816, 822 (1st Cir. 1991).
The burden is on the moving party to
show, through the pleadings, discovery and affidavits, “that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ.
A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of
the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
A genuine issue of material
fact exists where the evidence with respect to the fact in
dispute “is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict
for the nonmoving party.” Id.
If the moving party has satisfied its burden, the burden
shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine, triable issue. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).
The Court must view the
entire record in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party and indulge all reasonable inferences in that party's
favor. O'Connor v. Steeves, 994 F.2d 905, 907 (1st Cir. 1993).
Summary judgment is appropriate if, after viewing the record in
the non-moving party's favor, the Court determines that no
genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Boston Harbor Cruises submits that Exxon Shipping Co. v.
Baker, 554 U.S. 471 (2008), created a per se rule that punitive
damages in maritime tort cases may not exceed compensatory
Accordingly, defendant asks this Court to enter
judgment that any jury award of punitive damages in this case
may not exceed the amount of compensatory damages.
responds that any decision on that issue is premature and that
the Exxon opinion did not create a ceiling for punitive damages
in all maritime cases.
The ripeness doctrine ensures that “the harm asserted has
matured sufficiently to warrant judicial intervention.” Warth v.
Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 499 n. 10 (1975).
To demonstrate that a
claim is ripe for litigation, a plaintiff must show 1) “the
fitness of the issues for judicial decision” and 2) “the
hardship to the parties of withholding court consideration.”
Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield v. City of Springfield, 724
F.3d 78, 89 (1st Cir. 2013) (citation omitted).
The first element, fitness, examines whether the issue
“involves uncertain and contingent events that may not occur as
anticipated or may not occur at all.” Ernst & Young v.
Depositors Econ. Prot. Corp., 45 F.3d 530, 535 (1st Cir. 1995).
The second prong, hardship, concerns the harm to the parties
that would result from withholding a decision. Reddy v. Foster,
845 F.3d 493, 501 (1st Cir. 2017).
Defendant’s argument is unavailing as to both parts of the
First, the possibility of a punitive damage award exceeding
the compensatory award depends on a precarious and unforeseeable
chain of events.
The issue will arise only if 1) the jury finds
gross negligence or recklessness, 2) the jury awards plaintiff
punitive damages and 3) that award exceeds the compensatory
These “uncertain and contingent events” render
the issue unripe for review at this time. See Ernst & Young, 45
F.3d at 535.
Second, Boston Harbor Cruises has not demonstrated how the
Court’s forbearance on this issue will cause it hardship.
favorable finding would not dispose of any substantive claims
nor alter any necessary defenses.
In the absence of a pretrial
decision on punitive damages, BHC will not be “required to
engage in, or to refrain from, any conduct.” Texas v. United
States, 523 U.S. 296, 301 (1998).
Defendant faces no hardship
Because the hardship BHC anticipates is speculative and
superficial it is not ripe for judicial determination at this
Defendant’s motion for partial summary judgment, with
respect to a punitive damages cap, will therefore be denied.
III. Defendant’s motion to strike
Defendant moves to strike two exhibits attached to
plaintiff’s opposition to summary judgment.
BHC contends that
the first exhibit, a United States Coast Guard Investigative
Report, is inadmissible under 46 U.S.C. § 6308(a).
responds that she introduced that exhibit only in rebuttal after
defendant opened the door to that report.
Defendant argues that
the second exhibit, incident reports documenting prior injuries
aboard M/V CODZILLA are inadmissible hearsay.
that those reports are admissible as party admissions and
Having resolved defendant’s motion for summary judgment
without reliance on the exhibits at issue, this Court finds that
the motion to strike is moot.
To the extent that the parties
intend to dispute their admission at trial, those issues are
more properly addressed through motions in limine.
defendant has submitted three such motions challenging the
incident reports and one such motion challenging the USCG
Accordingly, defendant’s motion to strike will be denied as
In accordance with the foregoing, defendant’s motion for
partial summary judgment (Docket No. 70) is DENIED and
defendant’s motion to strike (Docket No. 78) is DENIED AS
/s/ Nathaniel M. Gorton_____
Nathaniel M. Gorton
United States District Judge
Dated April 11, 2018
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