In Re: St. Jude & New Madrid Harbor Service
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Motion to Dissolve and Lift Stay Order (#12) is DENIED without prejudice. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, should petitioner continue to oppose the lifting of the stay following expiration of the claims- filing deadline, the petitioner shall file its memorandum in opposition no later than August 22, 2014. Claimant shall haveuntil August 29, 2014 to file its renewed reply.isit ( Response to Court due by 8/22/2014.) Signed by District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr on 7/17/2014. (JMC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
IN RE: THE MATTER OF THE
THE COMPLAINT OF ST. JUDE
AND NEW MADRID HARBOR
SERVICE, INC., OWNER OF THE
M/V CITY OF NEW MADRID FOR
EXONERATION FROM OR
LIMITATION OF LIABILITY
Case No. 1:14CV83 SNLJ
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Justin H. Smith was seriously injured while working aboard the M/V CITY OF
NEW MADRID, which is a vessel owned by St. Jude & New Madrid Harbor Service and
operated on the Mississippi River. Mr. Smith filed a petition for damages in the Circuit
Court of New Madrid County, Missouri, Case No. 14NM-CV00158, seeking redress for
his injuries from St. Jude & New Madrid Harbor Service.
Petitioner St. Jude & New Madrid Harbor Service filed this Limitation of Liability
action on June 6, 2014 pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 30505, § 30511, and Supplemental
Admiralty Rule F. As mandated by Rule F(3), once a vessel owner complies with the
requirements of Rule F(1), all claims and proceedings against the owner cease as a matter
of law. In accordance with that rule, on June 11, 2014, this Court issued an order
restraining all suits and ordering all persons to “file their respective claims with the Clerk
of this Court and to serve on Petitioner’s attorneys a copy thereof on or before August 15,
2014[.]” (#11.) Mr. Smith’s state court case was stayed as a result of that stay.
Mr. Smith has filed a Motion to Dissolve and Lift that stay order (#12) pursuant to
the Savings-to-Suitors clause, 28 U.S.C. § 1333. Specifically, Mr. Smith states that the
Court must dissolve the stay under the “single claimant” exception to the Limitation Act
so that he can have his cause heard by a jury.
Petitioner St. Jude & New Madrid Harbor Service (“St. Jude”) opposes lifting the
stay at this time. First, St. Jude argued that Mr. Smith was not a claimant in this case
because he had not yet filed a claim in the case pursuant to this Court’s order. Mr. Smith
has now filed such a claim, however (see #16).
Second, St. Jude argues that it is premature to lift the stay on the basis that this is a
“single claimant” case because the deadline for claim filings — August 15, 2014 — has
not yet passed. Claimant Smith argues that there is no reason to expect more claimants
because he was the only person injured in the accident. He states there is “little, if any,
possibility of another claim.” Claimant cites considerations of the interests of justice and
judicial economy in arguing for an early lift of the stay.
The deadline for claim filings is only one month away. Although claimant knows
of no property damage to the boat or barge involved in the accident, the Court is reluctant
to shorten the claims-filing period on plaintiff’s word alone. Prudence dictates that the
parties and Court wait until the claims-filing period expires before determining whether
this is a single-claimant case. Claimant cites no actual harm to him or his case by waiting
one month, and he is not able to say for certain whether a property or other claim may be
filed in the meantime.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Motion to Dissolve and Lift Stay Order
(#12) is DENIED without prejudice.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, should petitioner continue to oppose the
lifting of the stay following expiration of the claims-filing deadline, the petitioner shall
file its memorandum in opposition no later than August 22, 2014. Claimant shall have
until August 29, 2014 to file its renewed reply.
Dated this 17th
day of July, 2014.
STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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