Tug Allie-B Inc. v. United States
11th Circuit Appeals Court: 2001 WL 1453910: 16 November 2001
Case note contributed by Healy & Baillie LLP of New York, attorney Jana
LIMITATION: LIMITATION ACT 1851: CLAIMS UNDER PARK SYSTEM RESOURCES
PROTECTION ACT (‘PSRPA’), 1990: WHETHER CLAIMS UNDER PSRPA SUBJECT TO
LIMITATION ACT: CONFLICT OF STATUTES: MORE RECENT AND SPECIFIC PREVAILS
In a case where a vessel sought to limit its liability for a claim brought
against it by the United States government under the PSRPA for damage to a reef
in Florida, the Appeals Court held that the claim under PSRPA was not subject to
limitation under the Limitation Act.
DMC Category Rating: Developed
u u u u u
The action arose from the grounding of the tug ALLIE-B near a reef in Florida’s
Biscayne National Park, causing over US$3 million in damage to the park’s
natural resources. Following the grounding, the vessel owner filed a Limitation
Action seeking to limit recoverable damages to the post-casualty value of the
ALLIE-B, plus her pending freight, an estimated amount of US$1.3 million in
total. In its Answer in the Limitation Action, the US government sought over
US$3 million in damages, claiming that pursuant to the PSRPA, it was entitled to
all damages stemming from the grounding, without consideration for the
Limitation Act or its statutory cap on damages.
The Limitation Act limits a vessel owner’s liability for maritime
casualties to the post-accident value of the vessel plus her pending freight.
The PSRPA, on the other hand, creates a separate cause of action that allows the
government to bring claims against any person or instrumentality that causes
damage to a United States park resource, and allows unlimited recovery for
damages to the park and any secondary losses stemming from that damage.
The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed the trial court’s
holding that the Limitation Act was subordinate to the PSRPA and allowed the
government to proceed with its claim for all damages to the park’s resources.
The court surveyed the various conflicts between the two statutes. Based on the
inconsistencies found, the Court concluded that the two statutes presented an
irreconcilable conflict. The Court then went on to note that where two statutes
are in conflict, the more recent and specific statute shall govern -- in this
case the PSRPA. The Court continued that the PSRPA was the more specific statute
because it was narrowly tailored to address incidents involving destruction,
loss or injury to "park system resources" (as defined by the PSRPA)
and allows the government to recover only for damages associated with such
incidents, while the Limitation Act applied to maritime casualties generally.
The Court therefore affirmed the lower court’s holding that the Limitation Act
was inapplicable to claims under the PSRPA.
u u u u u
This was the first time that the issue, whether or not a claim under the
PSRPA took precedence over the provisions of the Limitation Act, had been
determined in the US courts.