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Admiralty and Maritime

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Overview

The admiralty and maritime practice at Royston Rayzor is a long-established area of activity, with many experienced attorneys available in the several sub-specialties of importance to maritime interests.  The practice includes defense of and advice to shipowners and offshore interests in matters involving protection and indemnity, hull and machinery, energy, cargo, general average, salvage, collision, charter parties, bills of lading, environmental, regulatory and administrative proceedings, contractual indemnity, insurance and risk transfer agreements, crew and other personal injury claims, and virtually any other matters falling within the admiralty and maritime arena, both domestic and international.

Royston Rayzor provides emergency response legal services to its clients, which is particularly suited to its maritime clients.  The attorneys and marine investigator on call respond on a 24/7 basis on short notice to an emergency on land or water.  Our responders get to the incident site quickly and conduct the necessary initial investigation, procure and collect evidence, deal with the authorities, and provide our client with an early assessment and management of the legal expenses presented. 

Royston Rayzor is named by U.S. News & World Report as a “tier one” admiralty and maritime firm for Houston.  Eight of the Firm’s attorneys are on the current list of Texas Super Lawyers and one on the Texas Super Lawyers Rising Stars in the category of Transportation/Maritime Law, and six attorneys are on the current list of “Best Lawyers in America” in the category of Maritime Law.  

Some of our recent trials in the admiralty and maritime area include the following:

Erik Larsen v. T&T Offshore, Inc., Anglo-Eastern Shipmanagement (Singapore) PTE. Ltd and Baker Petrolite Corporation - 2011
Court:  151st District Court of Harris County, Texas
Description:  Injury to a longshoreman when transferring from a platform to a vessel
Result:  Defense verdict for our client, the ship manager (Anglo-Eastern).  The jury found responsibility as follows:  Plaintiff 41%; T&T Offshore 39%; Baker Petrolite (settling defendant) 20%; and Anglo-Eastern 0% (our client).  The jury awarded total damages of $755,000 for the Plaintiff, and after a reduction for comparative fault, the Plaintiff’s award was reduced to $294,450.

Platinum Seafood v. Crumplers Shipbuilding - 2011
Court: 260th District Court of Orange County, Texas
Description:  The Plaintiff sought recovery for loss of a shrimp boat, lost profits, attorney fees, treble damages under a state consumer statute, and punitive damages.  The Plaintiff proceeded to trial on maritime bailment and negligence theories and gross negligence.  The Plaintiff asked jury for slightly more than $1 million in actual and punitive damages.  At the close of the Plaintiff’s case, the Court granted a motion for directed verdict for our client on punitive damages.
Result:  The jury returned a 10-2 verdict for the Plaintiff, placing fault on both parties.  The net verdict to the Plaintiff was $334,000.

Coty Wise v Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc. - 2010
Court:  United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division
Description:  Jones Act personal injury claim
Result:  The pre-trial demand was $500,000.  The jury awarded the Plaintiff $220,250.00.

Roger Hamilton v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company - 2009
Court:  127th District Court of Harris County, Texas
Description:  Jones Act personal injury claim
Result:  The pre-trial demand was $1,150,000.  A bench trial with an advisory jury presented a verdict for the Plaintiff in the amount of $1,020,900.

Elvia Saldierna, et al v. Greg Seaman - 2009
Court:  130th District Court of Matagorda County, Texas
Description:  Jones Act wrongful death claim of a seaman
Result:  The case settled favorably after four days of trial.

Alex Frizzell, Jr. v. Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc. - 2008
Court:  United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division
Description:  Jones Act personal injury claim
Result:  Plaintiff sought damages in the amount of $1,500,000.  Following a bench trial, the case was settled for $150,000.

Reynaldo Gonzalez v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company - 2007
Court:  206th District Court of Hidalgo County, Texas
Description:  Jones Act personal injury claim
Result:  The pre-trial demand $1,000,000.  A jury verdict for the Plaintiff of $125,000.00 was affirmed following an appeal by the Plaintiff.

Dalton Harrell v. Alexander/Ryan - 2006
Court:  United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division
Description:  An offshore engineer for Exxon earning around $100,000 per year sustained serious personal injuries.  We represented life boat company which was only entity sued by the Plaintiff.  We impleaded a third party defendant.
Result:  At the conclusion of evidence but before issuing formal decision, the Court suggested a 50/50 split between the defendant and third party defendant, with each to pay $875,000.  The parties agreed.

Patrick Kirksey v. Tonghai Maritime and Cosco Bulk Carriers - 2006
Court:  United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division
Description:  Serious injuries to a longshoreman engaged in the discharge of steel cargo
Result:  The Court entered a judgment of $1,902,901.56, finding the defendants 90% at fault.  Judgment was reversed and rendered in our client’s favor on appeal by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ponce v. M/V ALTAIR - 2006
Court:  United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division
Description:  Longshoreman fatality
Result:  An advisory jury awarded $1.68 million.  The Plaintiffs settled on appeal for $1.3 million.

Samuel Johnson v. TODCO - 2005
Court:  60th District Court of Harris County, Texas
Description:  Serious personal injury to a 30 year old Jones Act seaman/offshore rig worker with substantial earnings.  Liability was stipulated by the defendant, and the only issue tried was amount of damages.
Result:  The lowest pre-trial offer from the Plaintiff was $1,400,000.  The Court awarded $745,000. 

Carlos Meza v. Miss Marrisa, Inc. - 2004
Court:  County Court at Law No. 1 of Calhoun County, Texas
Description:  Personal injury on a vessel
Result:  Verdict for our client, the defendant

Neil Range v. Brown Water Marine Service, Inc. - 2004
Court:  156th District Court of Aransas County, Texas
Description:  Maritime personal injury case
Result:  Defense verdict for our client

Eugene Rash, et al v. Brown Water Marine Service, Inc. - 2002
Court:  343rd District Court of Aransas County, Texas
Description:  Maritime personal injury case
Result:  Defense verdict for our client

Some of our recent appeals in the admiralty and maritime area include:

Sobrino-Barrera v. Anderson Shipping Co., 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 22040 (5th Cir. 2012) - The Court of Appeals affirmed a summary judgment finding that a vessel’s charterer owed no duty to an injured longshoreman.

Gulf Coast Shell & Aggregate LP v. Newlin, 623 F.3d 235 (5th Cir. 2010)- Our client challenged the existence of admiralty jurisdiction.  The judgment of the District Court finding admiralty jurisdiction was vacated by the Court of Appeals, and the case was remanded to the District Court for entry of an order dismissing the claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Gonzalez v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co.,2010 Tex. App. LEXIS 4777 (Tex. App.–Corpus Christi 2010, no pet.) – Following an appeal by the maritime personal injury plaintiffs, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment, after a jury verdict, of only $125,000 against our client when the pretrial demand was $1,000,000.

Kirksey v. Tonghai Mar., 535 F.3d 388 (5th Cir. 2008) - The Court of Appeals reversed and rendered a judgment in favor of our client in a 905(b) longshore claim, because any dangerous condition in the stowage of the cargo was open and obvious to the stevedore.

De Leon v. Shih Wei Navigation Co., 269 Fed. Appx. 487 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 555 U.S. 824 (2008) - The Court of Appeals affirmed a dismissal in favor of our client for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Devon Louisiana Corp. v. Petra Consultants, Inc., 2007 Fed. Appx. 539 (5th Cir. 2007), cert. denied, 554 U.S. 929 (2008) - The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s ruling that maritime law applied to a master service agreement, and thus the contractual indemnity provisions were enforceable.

Pemeno Shipping Co. v. Louis Dreyfus Corp., 238 Fed. Appx. 6 (5th Cir. 2007) - The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of our client, denying the recovery of damages for the ship’s delay in delivering wheat in Libya and for costs the shipping company incurred in fumigating the wheat and selling it elsewhere.

Brooks v. Raymond Dugat Co. LC, 336 F.3d 360 (5th Cir. 2003) - The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s decision in favor of our client against a seaman based on the doctrine of claim preclusion.

Eagle Imp. & Exp. v. Am. President Lines, 58 Fed. Appx. 132 (6th Cir. 2003) - The Court of Appeals affirmed a summary judgment granted by a District Court in favor of our client, because the action was barred by the limitations period set forth in the U.S. Carriage of Goods by Sea Act.

Am. V Ships Ltd. LLC v. Nordica Eng'g Servs., 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 28201 (5th Cir. 2002) – The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the District Court that a motion to intervene in the judicial sale of a vessel was untimely.

Coastal Tankships, U.S.A., Inc. v. Anderson, 87 S.W.3d 591 (Tex. App.–Houston [1st Dist.] 2002, pet. denied) – The Court of Appeals reversed an adverse jury verdict and rendered judgment in favor of our client in connection with a Jones Act case, finding that there was legally insufficient evidence of medical causation to support the jury’s verdict.

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