The bulk of our practice involves maritime personal injury, death, and property damage claims (and the insurance and contractual disputes that inevitably follow), appointed by vessel owners, by primary underwriters, and by excess underwriters, we protect our clients interests through a targeted approach to conflict resolution and litigation.
Between us, we have handled all manner of claims and alleged injuries from minor injuries, from minor (like a cook who allegedly ingested diesel fuel from the shower head on a vessel) to traumatic brain injury cases. We have also arrested vessels, written charter parties, overseen salvages, negotiated contracts, handled cargo claims and subrogation claims for underwriters, and litigated every sort of maritime contract.
We have particular experience in litigating maritime contracts and insurance. We’ve fought and won for hull, P&I, pollution, and excess underwriters on coverage defenses. We’ve fought and won on indemnity contracts too.
Justice Louis Brandeis said sunshine is the best disinfectant. Lawyers advertise their wins, but a lawyer who never loses never risks anything. Litigation is about risk management. To manage risk, you need accurate, transparent analysis - and a person who won’t admit to mistakes won’t learn from them. The only way to build lasting trust, and lasting relationships, is through transparency. You shouldn’t just hear the good parts about your case, and you shouldn’t just hear the good parts about your lawyers. The following is a list of some of the cases we’ve won, and some of the cases we’ve lost. The list of losses will grow over time. The list of wins, we expect, will grow much more quickly.
One note: a lot of the cases where we’re proudest don’t make the list. They’re the claims we’ve prevented, or the claims we’ve settled early.
REC v. Dawn (5th Cir. 2018)
This one is a jumble, but to cut to it: Dawn Services, a boat broker in this instance, owes indemnity to Bisso and Bisso's invitees under a contract with Bisso. A person is injured when he is being transferred by lift basket onto the deck of REC's vessel. REC argues REC is Bisso's invitee. The district court, then the Fifth Circuit, both disagree. An invitee is a person or company with physical premises on the property of another for their mutual benefit. Innkeeper / guest. Store / shopper. "Adjacent to" isn't enough in tort, and it isn't enough in contract. (I briefed this at both levels, but didn't argue it.)
P&I Underwriters v. Hull Underwriters - 2018
Three pushboats are pushing a barge down a river: one at the stern, one starboard, one port. One The starboard pushboat loses an engine and as a result, it runs into the bridge fender. It sues everybody. It alleges the other pushboats had a duty to keep the whole flotilla off the fender. It alleges the pushboat in the stern was the lead tug, responsible for coordination of the tow. I claim the allegations are towage, under the hull policy, and the hull policy should answer. I win in the district court. Then I lose in the Fifth Circuit, which decides you can be the tug, or you can be the tow, but you can't be the tug and the tow. Doubly frustrating: I lose on an argument the other side didn't materially raise.
Shoemaker v. Estis (E.D. La. 2015)
I put a release on the record for Albert Shoemaker. Mr. Shoemaker sought to upset the release, claiming he was under the influence of intoxicants at the time. The release was upheld and Mr. Shoemaker’s claims dismissed.
Spencer v. Chevron - 2016
Two workers breathed in carbon monoxide in an RV overnight when they were working at a man camp after Hurricane Katrina. They sued everybody. I argued that our client was entitled to defense, indemnity, and additional insured status from a third-party under an indemnity contract. The Louisiana Fourth Circuit found insurance coverage was excluded under the GL policy's auto exclusion, and that the contract did not apply because the third party's connection to the accident was too attenuated.
Ricky B - 2014
The Ricky B took on water in Coastal Louisiana waters, but did not sink. Its owners called on Crosby Tugs to tow the vessel in. During the towage, the vessel sank. I argued that the vessel sank because Crosby towed it too quickly. The district court found (a) that the claim was contractual salvage, so a gross negligence standard applied, and (b) that the Crosby vessel did not move too quickly. The district court credited the Crosby captain’s trial testimony over his contradictory deposition testimony. The Fifth Circuit deferred the the district court’s factual findings.
In re Y&S Marine (E.D. La. 2013)
Y&S’s vessel, the M/V SUN FIGHTER, allided with a platform owned and operated by Harvest in Louisiana territorial waters, not far from Venice. A personal injury claim from one of the passengers followed, along with Harvest’s claim for damage to the well jacket. The personal injury claim settled, then I won summary judgment on the contract. I established that the Master Services Agreement between Harvest and Y&S barred the suit against Y&S, and required that Y&S be released for any damage to the well jacket. What’s more, Y&S maintained its business relationship with Harvest throughout and after the litigation.
McPhail v. Allstate (Orleans Parish 2013)
My colleague from Commander’s was in an automobile accident and suffered personal injury. I tried the case in Orleans Parish, successfully, securing a judgment Mr. McPhail used in part to open his restaurant.
Patterson v. Omega (E.D. La. 2014)
Ed Patterson claimed he injured his back while pulling on a net working for Omega Protein. I was one of two attorneys who tried the case, delivering 70% comparative fault on the part of Mr. Patterson.
Lett v. Omega Protein, Inc. (5th Cir. 2012)
James Lett filed suit against Omega, alleging he was injured twice - first, during the season using a needle gun to chip paint; second, the next season, lifting hatch covers on the Omega Protein vessel. I moved for summary judgment on the entire claim - negligence, unseaworthiness, and maintenance and cure. The district court agreed. I prepared and argued the appeal. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. Both courts concluded Mr. Lett had not made a cognizable claim for negligence or unseaworthiness because the work was routine. They denied maintenance and cure under Dowdle for the first accident and McCorpen for the second.
Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co. v. Sneed Shipbuilding (2011)
Sneed Shipbuilding built a dry-dock for Superior Shipyard. Superior felt it was defective and sued. The case was pending in Lafourche Parish, and Fireman’s Fund filed a declaratory judgment action in federal court, aruging its builder’s risk policy does not cover faulty workmanship. I won summary judgment in Lafourche, establishing that Superior could not bring in Fireman’s Fund under direct action because the tort claims had prescribed. I then won summary judgment in federal court, where Judge Eldon Fallon held the builder’s risk policy does not cover allegations of inadequate workmanship.
Schmidt v. MarineMax (2010) Mr. Schmidt filed suit against MarineMax in federal court in New Orleans. Schmidt claimed MarineMax had left his vessel out in the elements and was liable for damages. I won the claim on summary judgment, upholding a release signed by Schmidt over allegations of duress.