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In re Oregon Sealark, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. California

October 28, 2019

In re OREGON SEALARK, LLC, et al. Plaintiffs-in-Limitation

          ORDER REASSIGNING CASE; REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO ISSUE INJUNCTION RE: DKT. NOS. 2, 13

          Donna M. Ryu, United States Magistrate Judge.

         On July 26, 2019, Oregon Sealark, LLC and Brusco Tug & Barge, Inc. (“Applicants”) filed an application for an issuance of monition and injunction pursuant to the Limitation of Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30501 et seq. (the “Act”) and Rule F of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims (“Rule F”). [Docket No. 2.] On September 17, 2019, the court ordered Applicants to submit additional information and documentation in support of their application. [Docket No. 10.] On September 24, 2019, Applicants submitted supplemental documentation. [Docket No. 13.]

         Applicants have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge. [Docket No. 9.] However, the potential claimants to this action have not. Generally, injunctive relief is considered a case dispositive matter for which a magistrate judge cannot rule on without the consent of all parties. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). To avoid any claims that the court exceeded its jurisdiction under section 636 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72, the court orders the Clerk to reassign this case to a district judge, with the recommendation that the application be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Applicants are the owners of a ship known as “M/V Arthur Brusco” (the “Vessel”). [Docket No. 3 (“App.”) at 1-2.] On January 27, 2019, the Vessel was heading west through the Bulls Head Channel of Suisun Bay, pushing an empty barge ahead of it. Id. at 3. At approximately 6:30 a.m., another vessel (the “Boat”) crossed in front of the Vessel. Id. Applicants believe that the owners, operators and guests aboard the Boat contend that the two vessels collided, although Applicants dispute that contention. Id. They also believe that the individuals on the Boat claim that they suffered damages and injuries because of the alleged collision and intend to assert claims against Applicants and/or the Vessel as a result of such injuries.

         Applicants seek an order directing all possible claimants to bring their claims in this action; an injunction prohibiting or stopping all related claims in other courts; and approval of the preliminary stated value of the vessel.

         II. DISCUSSION

         The Act “allows a vessel owner to limit liability for damage or injury, occasioned without the owner's privity or knowledge, to the value of the vessel or the owner's interest in the vessel.” Lewis v. Lewis & Clark Marine, Inc., 531 U.S. 438, 446 (2001). The Act also “permits both American and foreign shipowners facing multiple suits arising out of one voyage to bring the claimants into one proceeding to apportion the owner's liability.” Matter of Bowoon Sangsa Co., Ltd., 720 F.2d 595, 597 (9th Cir. 1983). In addition to providing an upper cap for damages, a limitation action allows a vessel owner certain benefits to streamline proceedings against it. These include an injunction prohibiting other claims or proceedings against the owner or its property (so that all claims are brought within the same action) and a monition for claimants to appear in the action. Rule F(3)-(4).

         The process for bringing a limitation action is governed by Rule F, the requirements of which are examined below.

         A. Sufficiency of Complaint

         A limitation complaint must contain the following information:

1. [T]he voyage if any, on which the demands sought to be limited arose, with the date and place of its termination;
2. the amount of all demands including all unsatisfied liens or claims of lien, in contract or in tort or otherwise, arising on that voyage, so far as known to the plaintiff, and what ...

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