The opinion of the court was delivered by: MORAN
This court, sitting in admiralty, in a stay order dated June 21, 1995, enjoined any state court proceedings related to the alleged crash between plaintiff's vessel and tow and decedents' motorboat. Claimants are now before this court asking for the injunction to be dissolved. For the reasons set forth herein, claimants' motion is granted.
Lawrence McGill, decedent, drowned on August 7, 1993, allegedly due to a collision between his speed boat and plaintiff's vessel (the M/V ANN-G) and its tow. Decedent's wife, Bettina McGill, filed a two-count action (wrongful death and survival) in state court on behalf of the decedent's estate, herself, her two adult children and one minor child.
filed this complaint seeking exoneration from or limitation of liability pursuant to the Limitation of Vessel Owner's Liability Act, 46 U.S.C.A. §§ 181-196 (1958) (Limitation Act).
The Act provides that a shipowner's liability after a maritime accident, if incurred "without the privity or knowledge of such owner[,] . . . shall not . . . exceed the amount or value of the interest of such owner in such vessel, and her freight then pending." 46 U.S.C.A. § 183(a). To realize the benefits of this provision the shipowner must file with the district court security equal to the value of its interest in the ship and pending cargo. 46 U.S.C.A. § 185; Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, Supp. Rule F(1)-(2). Plaintiff stipulated the value of the boat and its tow at $ 177,410, which this court approved.
On the same date that the federal complaint was filed, this court, pursuant to 46 U.S.C.A. § 185 and Supp. Rule F(3), stayed any related state court proceedings pending resolution of the exoneration/limitation liability issue and ordered all potential claimants to present their claims in the exoneration/limitation proceeding.
The McGills filed their answer and claim in federal court, seeking $ 2 million in damages. On August 15, 1995, claimants motioned this court to modify the stay order. In support of their request, claimants have made the following stipulations:
(1) The United States District Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all limitation of liability issues which arose out of an incident occurring on August 7, 1993 between the M/V ANN-G and a motorboat operated solely by Lawrence McGill.
(2) [Claimants] concede and agree to waive any claim of res judicata respecting any limitation of liability issues as might arise in the event of entry of judgment in [the state court case filed] or any case based upon the facts as alleged in [that state court case].
(3) [Claimants] concede and agree the survival act . . . has irrevocable priority over the wrongful death loss of society claims.
Jurisdiction is conferred on this court by 28 U.S.C.A. § 1333(1).