Justia Legal Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law
Seachris v. Brady-Hamilton Stevedore Co.
The Ninth Circuit granted a petitioner for review of the BRB's decision upholding the ALJ's award of attorney's fees and costs under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), in an action brought by petitioner for death benefits.The panel held that aspects of the decisions under review constitute legal error and are not supported by substantial evidence. Specifically, the panel held that the ALJ improperly rejected the fee applicant's evidence of prevailing market rates, erroneously established a paralegal's hourly rate by reference to other ALJ decisions rather than evidence of prevailing market rates in the relevant community, and improperly denied fees for hours reasonably expended. Furthermore, the ALJ and the BRB erred in concluding that the LHWCA does not authorize an award of interest on costs. Therefore, the panel remanded to the BRB for further proceedings and ordered the BRB to reassign this matter to a different ALJ on remand. View "Seachris v. Brady-Hamilton Stevedore Co." on Justia Law
Williamson v. Recovery Ltd. P’ship
In 2006, the district court adopted a consent order to resolve Dispatch's suit for an accounting of the gold from the S.S. Central America shipwreck. The order required defendants to produce financial documents regarding the period starting January 1, 2000. The court later issued a contempt order, citing defendants’ failure to produce an inventory of the gold recovered and sold. Defendants then produce an inventory of gold that they sold to California Gold Group from February 15 to September 1, 2000. They did not produce any prior inventories, which would have provided a complete accounting of treasure recovered from the ship. At a 2007 contempt hearing, the parties argued about whether the defendants possessed any earlier inventories. The court issued another contempt order in 2009. Defendants continued to assert that they had no such inventories. In 2013, Dispatch obtained the appointment of a receiver that it had first sought in 2008 to take control of and wind down the defendants. The receiver recovered found numerous inventories created before the California Gold sale, in a duplex owned by defendants' attorney and leased to defendants. The court concluded that defendants’ attorney engaged in bad-faith conduct, rejected Dispatch’s request for $1,717,388 (its total litigation expenses) and limited sanctions to the cost of pursuing the motion for sanctions, plus the expenses to uncover the fraud and locate the inventories. Dispatch submitted bills for $249,359.85. The Sixth Circuit affirmed a reduced award of $224,580. View "Williamson v. Recovery Ltd. P'ship" on Justia Law
Robol Law Office v. Recovery Ltd. P’ship
Columbus-America, acting as the agent for Recovery, discovered the wreck of the "S.S. Central America," which was loaded with tons of gold when it sank. The district court granted Columbus-America salvage rights. Robol represented Columbus-American in proceedings to establish salvage rights. Robol subsequently filed a claim in this in rem admiralty action to obtain a salvage award for himself, alleging that he had provided voluntary assistance to the Receiver in turning over files and documents related to the salvage operation, which proved useful in the continuing salvage of the sunken vessel. The district court dismissed Robol’s claim for failure to state a claim. The court affirmed, agreeing with the district court's conclusion that Robol had been obligated to return the files and documents to his former clients under the applicable rules of professional responsibility and principles of agency law and therefore that his act of returning the materials to his former clients was not a voluntary act, as would be required for him to obtain a salvage award. View "Robol Law Office v. Recovery Ltd. P'ship" on Justia Law