Robinson v. Orient Marine
In this decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a decision of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and held that, a provision in a time charter party placing the risk and expense of cargo loading operations on the charterer allocated risk between owner and charterer but did not affect the duties owed by the owner or charterer to an injured longshoreman under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
DMC Category Rating: Developed
Case note submitted by Brian S. Tretter, an attorney with the firm Blank Rome LLP, in New York. Blank Rome are International Contributors to the website for the United States.
Plaintiff sued, among others, the owner and timecharterer of the vessel for compensation under the Longshore and arbor Workers’ Compensation Act ("LWHCA"), enacted in 1927, which provides an injured longshoreman with redress for damages caused by a "vessel," a term whose definition includes timecharterers. The LWCHA has been interpreted to place the primary responsibility for the safety of longshoremen with the stevedore, but a "vessel" may be liable if, inter alia, on turning over the vessel to a stevedore, the vessel owner fails to warn of hidden defects of which the owner should have known. This is commonly referred to as the "turnover" duty. Plaintiff claimed that owner and charterer violated the turnover duty by failing to warn him about the unstable plywood bundles.
Owner and charterer moved for summary judgment on the theory that there was no hidden defect. In deciding the motions, the district court found that the improperly stacked plywood bundles were not a latent defect and granted owner’s motion for summary judgment. The district court denied the charterer’s motion on the basis that a clause in the time charterparty made the charterer liable for the negligent stowage of the cargo, regardless of the existence of a hidden defect. That clause stated that "Charterers are to perform all cargo handling at their risk and expense." Charterer appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
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