Joseph Jarvis v. Hines Furlong Lines, Inc., No. 21-5937, 2022 WL 1929364 (6th Cir. June 6, 2022)

An employee of our client filed a Jones Act lawsuit for a back injury incurred when working aboard a vessel. We moved for and won summary judgment before the trial court, arguing that the plaintiff was not a seaman because the vessel upon which he served was not “a vessel in navigation.” The Sixth Circuit evaluated the facts and found that the vessel was undergoing substantial repairs (hull work, replacement of plumbing, removal and cleaning of fuel tanks, installation of new cooling for engine), was not capable of floating in the water, was not capable of moving under its own power, and spent several months in dry dock. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with our position that because the vessel was undergoing such extensive repairs it was not a vessel in navigation and the plaintiff was not a seaman at the time of his injury.

The Dutra Group v. Batterton, 139 S.Ct. 2275 (2019)

The plaintiff in this matter suffered a hand injury when a hatch blew open and struck him. The plaintiff sought punitive damages for his claim alleging the vessel was unseaworthy. The district court and Ninth Circuit held that seamen were entitled to punitive damages on claims of unseaworthiness. The Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari to address this question. 

Our firm submitted a brief on behalf of the Inland River Harbor and Fleeting Coalition, arguing against permitting seamen to recover punitive damages for unseaworthiness claims. The Supreme Court agreed and held that punitive damages are not a traditional remedy for unseaworthiness and, as such, were not available to seamen. (read Justice Alito’s majority opinion here). Please view the brief submitted on behalf of the Coalition. 

Terral River Service, Inc. v. SCF Marine Inc., 20 F.4th 1015 (5th Cir. 2021)

Our client delivered an empty barge to the plaintiff’s facility. The plaintiff loaded the barge and placed it in its fleet, but soon found that the barge was partially submerged due to a twelve inch by three quarter inch facture. We successfully moved for summary judgment on claims for negligence, unseaworthiness, breach of contract, and indemnity, and this ruling was upheld on appeal.

Supreme Rice, L.L.C. v. Turn Services, L.L.C., 545 F. Supp. 3d 416 (E.D. La. 2021)

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against defendant Turn Services, asserting that Turn Services contaminated barges filled with rice by placing them near barges filled with coal. Our client, the owner of several barges in the fleet at issue, was eventually brought into the case as a third-party defendant, and we moved for summary judgement. We argued that the contract between our client and the plaintiff required the plaintiff to sue our client directly within nine months of any incident and that there was no evidence by which any part could meet its burden to prove that our client’s barges were unseaworthy. The Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana agreed and dismissed the claims against our client.

Upper River Services, L.L.C. v. Heiderscheid, 481 F. Supp. 3d 907 (D. Minn. 2020)

An employee of our client filed a Jones Act lawsuit and claim for maintenance and cure for a back injury that he claimed occurred while he worked in our client’s fabrication shop in the off season. Our client, just like many companies that operate on rivers in the northern United States, lays off its deckhands each winter as cold weather shuts down operations on the river. Our client offered the plaintiff a position in its fabrication shop during the winter performing duties different than those of a deckhand. 


The employee filed a state workers’ compensation claim. We moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the employee was still legally a seaman at the time of the alleged injury and thus not entitled workers’ compensation. We prevailed on that issue (both before the federal court and the workers’ compensation tribunal). We then sought summary judgment on plaintiff’s Jones Act and general maritime law claims. The Federal District Court for the District of Minnesota granted the motion for summary judgment and held that (1) the employee failed to show how our client failed to train him or that his back injury stemmed from the incident at work rather than a pre-existing injury; and (2) that the employee was not owed maintenance and cure or unearned wages because he failed to submit evidence of his cost of living, medical treatment, or wages owed. 

Gary Neff v. Catfish Bend Casinos II, LLC, No. LALA 004487 (Iowa Dist. Ct. for Des Moine Cnty. Jan. 27, 2016)

An employee of our client filed a Jones Act claim, asserting that he was hurt on the job. The case went to trial in Iowa state court, and, on the second day, the court entered a directed verdict in favor of our client. We succeeded in arguing that the plaintiff failed to carry his burden of proof, allowing us to win in the early stages of the trial. Moreover, the court awarded us costs, allowing us to recoup some of the expenses of litigation.

In re American River Transportation Company, 800 F.3d 428 (8th Cir. 2015)

In a case of first impression before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, we established the maritime legal right of a vessel owner to petition for limitation of liability against claims brought by the U.S. government. Barges from the tow of our client came into contact with Lock and Dam 25 on the Mississippi River near Winfield, Missouri. The government claimed that damages to its lock approached $9 million. This was the second successful appeal handled by our firm in this case. Following the appellate court’s ruling in favor of our client on this key legal issue, the case was remanded to the U.S. District Court for further proceedings.

Mike’s, Inc. v. Illinois Department of Revenue et al., Case No. 2012-MR-143 (Circuit Court of Madison County, IL 2015)

We obtained a judgment on behalf of our client against the Illinois Department of Revenue requiring the Department to refund to our client more than $142,000 in taxes, penalties, and interest that had been imposed improperly on our client’s marine equipment.

Pastor Mercado v. Paducah River Painting, Inc., No. 2012-CA-001903-MR, 2014 WL 7205782 (Ky. Ct. App. Dec. 19, 2014)

This case concerned whether the plaintiff was a seaman or not. The trial court ruled in favor of our client and found that the employee was not a seaman. The plaintiff appealed. The plaintiff sandblasted and painted barges. These barges were typically removed from the water but occasionally would be serviced while in the water. The Kentucky Court of Appeals found that the plaintiff was only on the water sporadically and his connection to the vessels he painted was not substantial. On this basis, the court ruled in favor of our client and upheld the trial court’s ruling.

Forest Phillips v. Hunter Marine Transport, Inc., et al., No. 09–cv–0997–SCW, 2012 WL 4471646 (S.D. Ill. Sept. 26, 2012)

In a case of first impression, a jury awarded our client, Hunter Marine Transport, compensatory and punitive damages against a Jones Act seaman who had pursued a fraudulent injury claim. Phillips, a deckhand, reported arm and neck injuries. After paying maintenance, cure and supplemental wages for a period of approximately six months, Hunter Marine, his employer, discovered evidence Phillips had lied about being injured at work. Hunter Marine terminated his benefits and employment, and Phillips sued. We filed a counterclaim to recover the maintenance and cure payments made by our client and for punitive damages for fraud. Following a jury trial, the federal court in Illinois entered judgment against the deckhand and in favor of our client for more than $100,000.

Sammy Hull v. Upper River Services, LLC, No. 62-CV-11-1505, 2012 WL 2862218 (D. Minn. May 9, 2012)

A 39-year-old deckhand’s left leg was crushed against a dock wall, resulting in a below-the-knee amputation. After a 7-day trial in Ramsey County, Minnesota, the deckhand’s attorney asked the jury to award more than $5 million dollars in damages. We persuaded the jury that the deckhand was 85% responsible for causing his own injury. After reducing the damages for the deckhand’s own comparative fault, the net jury verdict was $187,734.60, a small fraction of the over $5 million that the deckhand was seeking.

Shirley Adams v. Alter Barge Line, Inc., No. 07-501-DRH, 2009 WL 806598 (S.D. Ill. March 27, 2009)

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against our client, claiming that she was wrongfully terminated and discriminated against. We moved for summary judgment on these claims. The plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment and made numerous evidentiary challenges to the evidence in our motion for summary judgment. We won on all evidentiary issues and then succeeded in showing that the plaintiff failed to assert proper claims for harassment and retaliation. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois ruled in favor of our client on all counts and denied the plaintiff’s motion.

Jesse Hurd v. American River Transportation Co., 306 Fed. Appx. 954 (6th Cir. 2009)

The plaintiff owned a ski boat that was recently repaired and tested but the engine succumbed to mechanical problems. The boat was repaired again and then tested on the Mississippi River. The plaintiff did not take any back-up means of propulsion or communication device, and the boat’s motor failed once again. Our client’s vessel was pushing a tow of barges upriver. The plaintiff’s boat drifted in front of the tow but never showed any signs of distress and the two collided. A jury found that the plaintiff was fifty percent at fault, and under Tennessee law, the plaintiff could not recover damages where he was equally at fault.  The plaintiff appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the decision to award no damages to the plaintiff.

Rodriguez v. Johnston's Port 33, Inc., 178 P.3d 882 (Ok. Ct. App. 2008)

A Jones Act seaman filed a claim against our client but chose to voluntarily dismiss the action while he made a claim for workers’ compensation. Later, the seaman filed the Jones Act claim again, but it was barred by the statute of limitations. The seaman appealed the decision. The Oklahoma state circuit court of appeals agreed with our position and ruled that the seaman’s claim was not timely filed and the statute of limitations was not tolled for the time he spent disputing a workers’ compensation claim for the same injury.

Alvin Doughty v. Tennessee Valley Towing, Inc., No. 5:04CV-173-JHM, 2007 WL 3071524 (W.D. Ky. Oct. 19, 2007)

A seaman employed by our client filed a Jones Act claim, alleging that our client’s negligence contributed to his injury. After several days of trial, the jury returned verdict in favor of our client, concluding that our client was not negligent. Following the jury trial, we moved to recover costs. Not only did we succeed in defending our client at trial, but we also recovered nearly $5,000 in costs incurred during the case.

Essex Inc. Co. v. Inland Marine Sales, LLC, 387 F. Supp. 2d 978 (W.D. Ark. 2005)

An insurer sought a declaratory judgment that it was not required to cover property damage sustained when a houseboat fell off its trailer while being removed from the water. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas ruled in favor of our client, requiring the insurer to defend and pay for outstanding claims against our client.

In re the Matter of the Complaints of the American Milling Company, 409 F.3d 1005 (8th Cir. 2005)

A tow of barges struck the Eads Bridge, broke apart, and began drifting down the Mississippi River near St. Louis. One of the barges allided with a moored casino and the casino broke free and began to move away from shore. The towboat owner, our client, faced more than one hundred injury claims and multimillion dollar property damage and business interruption claims. We successfully limited the client’s liability to the value of the vessel, drastically reducing the potential liability of our client. We also proved that the stationary casino boat was contributorily negligent by remaining moored in that location despite knowing the risk of barge allisions.

L-3 Communications Corp. v. E.R. Lewis Transportation, Inc., No. 2:04-CV-765 TS, 2005 WL 3591987 (D. Utah Dec. 30, 2005)

In a breach of contract case arising out of damage sustained by a piece of heavy equipment, we moved to strike defendant’s move to apportion fault amongst non-parties and for summary judgment. On the motion to strike defendant’s argument that fault could be apportioned to non-parties under Utah state law, we succeeded in arguing that federal procedural law applied. Federal law made no allowance for apportioning fault to non-parties. We then moved for summary judgment against the defendant for breach of contract. The United States District Court for the District of Utah ruled in favor of our client and granted our motion for summary judgment for breach of contract.

In re Missouri Barge Line, Inc., 360 F.3d 885 (8th Cir. 2004)

Towboat pushing loaded barges collided with a new multimillion dollar gambling vessel while the vessels attempted to pass one another as the gambling boat moved upstream and the towboat downstream. The towboat owner, our client, faced substantial claims for personal injury, property damage, and business interruption. We successfully limited our client’s liability to the value of the vessel by proving that the client did not have privity or knowledge of its pilot’s violation of the rule governing passage on the river.

Sander, et al. v. Alexander Richardson Investments, d/b/a Yacht Club of St. Louis, 334 F.3d 712 (8th Cir. 2003)

Several boat owners filed lawsuits against our client when several boats were damages when a vessel caught fire. We asserted that our client was protected by an exculpatory clause in the rental agreement signed by the plaintiffs. The district court decided the exculpatory cause was not enforceable. We successfully appealed the district court’s decision. In a case of first impression, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld the marina’s exculpatory clause against negligence claims arising from fire losses.

Huss v. The King Co., 338 F.3d 647 (6th Cir. 2003)

A seaman was injured while retrieving a chartered work boat that was being stored in our client’s shipyard. The seaman brought Jones Act, unseaworthiness, and maintenance and cure claims in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The seaman was awarded over $30,000, but we succeeded in proving that the seaman was 60% at fault and our client was credited for overpaying maintenance and cure. This resulted in the seaman’s award being reduced to nothing. The seaman appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. We successfully defended the district court’s decision.

American Commercial Barge v. Alter Barge Line, Inc., No. 01-933, 2002 WL 31246543 (E.D. La. Oct. 4, 2002)

The plaintiff made a claim that our client’s vessel embarrassed the plaintiff’s navigation causing it to ground its tow of barges. We successfully proved that a disputed factual record showed that our client had not violated its passing agreement. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana found that the grounding occurred due to the pilots navigational errors and extreme river conditions.

C. Hager & Sons Hinge Manufacturing Co. v. Home Insurance Co., et al. No. CV99-N-1663-E, N.D. Ala., Eastern Div., reported in Mealey’s Litigation Report: Insurance, Vol. 16, #7, December 18, 2001.

In this case that focused on insurance coverage, we obtained summary judgment for the insurance company, our client, on an environmental claim. We successfully defended the environmental claim based upon pollution exclusion and late notice defenses.

Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Corp. v. Beelman River Terminals, Inc., 254 F.3d 706 (8th Cir. 2001)

The plaintiff claimed that our client was responsible for damage to steel stored in our client’s warehouse when the Mississippi River flooded in 1993. After a jury trial, the court entered judgment for the plaintiff and against our client. We successfully appealed the trial court’s judgment, arguing the court made numerous errors. With the case remanded, our client was in an excellent position to negotiate a favorable settlement.

Eagle Marine Transport Co. v. A Cargo of Hardwood Chips, No. 98-1919, 1998 WL 382141 (E.D. La. July 8, 1998)

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana authorized our client to arrest a cargo of woodchips. Following the seizure of the cargo, Marubeni Pulp & Paper filed a motion to vacate the arrest. The court upheld the seizure by Eagle, our client, of 42,179 tons of woodchips that had been conditionally discharged from barges onto land, based upon a maritime lien claim supported by contract terms we had drafted. The motion to vacate was denied.

Glickman, Inc. v. Home Ins. Co., 86 F.3d 997 (10th Cir. 1996)

This case involved a bad faith pollution claim brought by the Anderson Kill firm against our client. We obtained summary judgment for an insurer, our client, in federal district court in Kansas. On appeal, we successfully defended that ruling.

Institute of London Underwriters v. Eagle Boats, Ltd., 918 F. Supp. 297 (E.D. Mo. 1996)

Our client, the insurer of a boat and trailer that was lent to defendant for a magazine photoshoot, filed a claim against defendant after the boat and trailer were stolen en route to the photoshoot. Our client paid out the insurance policy to the boat’s owner and then sought to subrogate against the party transporting the boat. We successfully argued that, under a theory of bailment, the defendant was negligent in securing the boat and trailer. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri held that the defendant was negligent and ruled in favor of our client.

City of Fort Madison v. Emerald Lady, 990 F.2d 1086 (8th Cir. 1993)

The plaintiff, the City of Fort Madison, asserted maritime liens against our client for wharfage and construction costs related to the construction of a casino boat. The plaintiff asserted that it incurred costs by constructing a new passenger loading facility and agreeing to a nine-year docking lease. The district court found that there was no lien against our client’s vessel and that the arrested vessel could be released upon payment of $35,000 bond. The plaintiff appealed and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled, in agreement with our arguments, that it lacked jurisdiction, and the appeal was dismissed.

Hughes v. ContiCarriers and Terminals, Inc., 6 F.3d 1195 (7th Cir. 1993)

A towboat pilot filed a Jones Act claim after falling overboard. After a jury trial, the jury found that our client’s vessel was seaworthy and had not acted negligently. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois entered a judgment notwithstanding the jury’s verdict, awarding the pilot over $800,000. Our client appealed. We successfully reversed the district court’s decision with the Seventh Circuit court holding that there was no evidence that vessel had an unseaworthy condition that led to the pilot’s injury.

Merrill Marine Services, Inc. v. Union Planters Nat. Bank, 774 F. Supp. 1207 (E.D. Mo. 1991)

Our client, Merrill Marine Services, Inc. entered into an exclusive listing agreement whereby our client was the exclusive broker in the sale or charter of a fleet of barges and would receive a commission for the sale or charter. The defendant subsequently chartered the barges to another party without first terminating the listing agreement. Our client filed a claim against the defendant arguing that the defendant violated the exclusive listing agreement. We successfully moved for summary judgment with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri holding that our client could receiver the amount outlined in the agreement with interest.