In the Matter of Mike Hooks, LLC
ORDER denying 21 Motion Lift Stay Signed by District Judge Louis Guirola, Jr on 07/16/2021 (Guirola, Louis)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
IN THE MATTER OF MIKE
HOOKS, LLC, AS THE OWNER
AND OWNER PRO HAC VICE OF
THE M/V CAPTAIN ARCHIE AND
HER CARGO, ENGINES, TACKLE,
GEAR APPURTENANCES, ETC.
IN REM, PETITIONING FOR
EXONERATION FROM AND/OR
LIMITATION OF LIABLITY
Admiralty – Rule 9(h)
ORDER DENYING PETITIONER’S MOTION TO LIFT STAY
BEFORE THE COURT is the  Motion to Lift Stay filed by petitioner,
Mike Hooks, LLC, as owner and owner pro hac vice of the M/V CAPTAIN ARCHIE,
her cargo, engines, tackle gear, appurtenances, etc., in rem. After a review of the
record and relevant law, the Court hereby finds that Petitioner’s Motion should be
Mike Hooks filed a complaint seeking exoneration from and/or limitation of
liability regarding a personal injury claim asserted by claimant, Brandon Chet
Norwood Lennie, a deckhand aboard the M/V CAPTAIN ARCHIE, who suffered
injuries while attempting to make a connection with a section of floating pipe.
(Compl., ¶ 6, at 2-3, ECF No. 1). The alleged injury occurred November 1, 2017.
Lennie is the only claimant in the instant limitation proceeding.
On April 6, 2018, Mike Hooks, in its capacity as owner of the vessel, filed the
present limitation proceedings. The Court entered a permanent injunction on April
9, 2018, enjoining the claimant from initiating a claim in state court. (Order, ECF
No. 4). On July 9, 2018, the parties filed a  Joint Motion to Modify Stay
Proceedings, noting that, because Lennie was a single claimant, he would be
permitted to pursue an action in another forum outside the instant limitation action
subject to stipulations protecting Mike Hooks’ right to limitation of liability. (Joint
Mot., ¶ 6, at 2, ECF No. 15) (citing Inland Dredging v. Sanchez, 468 F.3d 864, 867
(5th Cir. 2006)). Included with their Joint Motion was the following stipulations:
1. This Court’s exclusive jurisdiction of the limitation of liability action
and that Mike Hooks can seek a determination of limitation following
the trial on the merits in a state court proceeding;
2. Lennie will not enforce any judgment obtained in any tribunal until
the instant limitation action is heard by this Court and the limitation
fund has been determined by the Court;
3. That in no event will Lennie seek to enforce a judgment or recovery
made in state court, or in any other tribunal, against Mike Hooks, as
same may expose Mike Hooks to liability in excess of the amount of the
limitation fund as determined by this Court;
4. Waiver of all claims of res judicata relating to Mike Hooks’ right to
limit liability based on any judgment obtained in state court, or before
any other tribunal; and
5. That Lennie will not seek any judgment or ruling on the issue of Mike
Hooks’ right to limit its liability before a state court, or any other
(Stip. of Brandon Chet Norwood Lennie, ECF No. 15-1). The Court thereby granted
the parties’ motion, finding the previous injunction restraining prosecution of any
other pending actions against Mike Hooks as lifted. (See Order Modifying Injunct.,
ECF No. 16). Thereafter, on July 11, 2018, the parties filed a  Joint Motion to
Stay Proceedings, seeking a stay of the proceedings to permit Lennie to pursue a
state court action. (Joint Mot. to Stay, ¶ 9, at 2, ECF No. 17). The Court stayed
and administratively closed the instant matter, noting that either party may file a
motion to re-open the case within thirty days of the final adjudication of Lennie’s
state court action, or at any time for good cause shown. (See Order, ECF No. 18).
On November 14, 2018, Lennie filed a petition in the Louisiana 14th Judicial
District Court, Parish of Calcasieu, alleging various maritime claims against Mike
Hooks as it relates to the November 1, 2017, incident. Mike Hooks answered the
state court petition on December 14, 2018.
Most recently, on June 8, 2021, Mike Hooks filed the instant  Motion to
Lift Stay. The bases of its Motion are twofold: (1) Mike Hooks seeks to have the
instant limitation action reopened and run concurrently with the state court
proceeding in order for the limitation action to be set on the Court’s docket with a
scheduling order and trial date; and (2) that any discovery conducted in the state
court action regarding limitation should be coordinated with this Court so it may
resolve and monitor any concerns that may arise throughout the discovery process.
In opposition, Lennie claims that the “saving to suitors clause” preserves the right
of an injured seaman to proceed in state court and that federal courts are directed
to abstain from exercising jurisdiction over an admiralty suit where there is a
pending state court action. (See Opp., at 3, ECF No. 24).
A shipowner may bring an action to limit its liability under the Limitation of
Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30501 et seq. Once this action is filed in federal court, the
district court stays all related claims against the shipowner pending in other
forums. Complaint of Port Arthur Towing Co. on Behalf of M/V MISS CAROLYN,
42 F.3d 312, 315 (5th Cir. 1995) (citations omitted). The “savings to suitors clause,”
however, has generated the doctrine of abstention, see Langnes v. Green, 282 U.S.
531, 541-42 (1931), and permits claimants to proceed in state court in limited
circumstances such as when a claimant “stipulates that the federal court has
exclusive jurisdiction over the limitation . . . proceeding and that [the claimant] will
not seek to enforce a greater damage award until the limitation action has been
heard by the federal court.” Complaint of Port Arthur, 42 F.3d at 315-16. In such
cases, the federal district court lifts its stay to the extent of allowing the claimant to
proceed with his state court action. Such is the case here.
The parties do not disagree that the “savings to suitors clause” permits
Lennie to proceed in state court. Rather, Mike Hooks requests the Court to exercise
jurisdiction concurrently with the state court action for the sake of scheduling
purposes and discovery issues that may arise. Mike Hooks fails to cite case law to
support its argument. Nonetheless, the Court finds that Mike Hooks’ position is
unpersuasive and lacks good cause. The Court thus must abstain and retain
jurisdiction over the limitation action pending resolution of Lennie’s various
maritime claims in state court. See Complaint of McCarthy Bros. Company/Clark
Bridge, 83 F.3d 821, 828 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Ex parte Green, 286 U.S. 437, 439-40
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the  Motion to
Lift Stay filed by petitioner, Mike Hooks, LLC, as owner and owner pro hac vice of
the M/V CAPTAIN ARCHIE, her cargo, engines, tackle gear, appurtenances, etc., in
rem, is hereby DENIED.
SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED this the 16th day of July, 2021.
Louis Guirola, Jr.
LOUIS GUIROLA, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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