United States District Court, D. Hawaii
In the Matter of The Complaint of HEALY TIBBITTS BUILDERS, INC., as owner pro hac vice of WEEKS 544, O.N. 520935, for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability. In the Matter of The Complaint and Petition of the United States of America in a Cause for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability with Respect to Navy Barge YCV-23 Re the Incident Involving Mooring Buoy in Pearl Harbor on December 10, 2014.
(1) GRANTING FOURTH-PARTY DEFENDANT PACIFIC SHIPYARDS,
INC.'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, ECF NO. 355, (2)
GRANTING THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT/FOURTH-PARTY PLAINTIFF OWL
INTERNATIONAL, INC'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, ECF NO.
359, AND (3) DENYING CLAIMANTS MAKUA, GASPAR, AND
ANTONIO'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT, ECF NO.
MICHAEL SEABRIGHT CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court are Fourth-Party Defendant Pacific Shipyards
International, LLC's (“Pacific Shipyards”)
Motion for Summary Judgment and Alternative Motion to Sever
or Continue Trial, ECF No. 355, Third-Party
Defendant/Fourth-Party Plaintiff Owl International, Inc., dba
Global Government Services' (“Global”) Motion
for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 359, and Claimants David B.
Makua, III, Cesario T. Gaspar, and Willie C. Antonio's
(collectively “Claimants”) Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment Re: Seaman's Status, ECF No. 368. For
the following reasons, Pacific Shipyards' and
Global's motions for summary judgment are
GRANTED. But because the court finds material
issues of fact exist regarding Claimants' seaman status,
Claimants' motion for partial summary judgment is DENIED.
consolidated limitation proceedings arise from a December 10,
2014, accident that happened during a project to upgrade
moorings for inactive Navy vessels in Pearl Harbor.
See Compl. at ¶¶ 6-7, ECF No. 1 in Civ.
No. 15-00520 JMS/KJM. Truston Technologies, Inc.
(“Truston”) was the contractor for the project.
Id. at ¶ 6. It hired Healy Tibbitts Builders,
Inc. (“Healy Tibbitts”) as a subcontractor to
provide labor and equipment for a portion of the work.
Id. The accident occurred when buoy D-8-H, which had
been hoisted overhead by a crane barge (“Weeks
544”) and suspended above the deck of a Navy barge,
slid down the riser or anchor chain onto a sinker block on
the deck of the Navy barge, killing two workers and injuring
Claimants. Id. at ¶ 7. Following the accident,
it was determined that bolts inside the buoy had rusted away,
causing the flange plate and capture plate on the buoy to
fail, which allowed the buoy to fall. See First
Amended Third-Party Compl. at ¶¶ 23-24, ECF No. 119
in Civ. No. 15-00520 JMS/KJM.
barge owners filed complaints for exoneration or limitation
of liability. Healy Tibbitts, owner pro hac vice of
Weeks 544, filed its complaint on December 16, 2015. ECF No.
1 in Civ. No. 15-00520 JMS/KJM. The United States, owner of
the Navy barge, filed its complaint on April 4, 2016. ECF No.
1 in Civ. No. 16-00156 JMS/KJM. The cases were consolidated
on August 24, 2016. ECF No. 80.
appeared in both matters and asserted that Healy
Tibbitts' and/or another party's negligence caused
the accident. See ECF No. 26 in Civ. No. 15-00520
JMS/KJM and ECF No. 25 in Civ. No. 16-00156 JMS/KJM. It then
filed a third-party complaint against Global, claiming that
as the “civilian contractor whose responsibility it was
to maintain . . . the subject buoy, ” Global caused the
accident by failing to maintain the buoy, painting over
corrosion, and failing to warn Truston about the buoy's
condition. ECF No. 119 at ¶¶ 36-38, 45. In their
First Amended Verified Claim for Damages, Claimants also
allege that Global acted in a negligent and grossly negligent
manner by “painting the buoy and otherwise covering the
damaged portions of the buoy.” ECF No. 348 at
¶¶ 88, 103-04. Global, in turn, filed a
fourth-party complaint against Pacific Shipyards, alleging
that if anyone was negligent in maintaining the buoy,
painting over corrosion, or failing to warn Truston, it was
Pacific Shipyards and not Global. ECF No. 243 at 25, 31, 34.
Shipyards filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on August 16,
2017. ECF No. 355. No party has opposed this motion.
filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on August 16, 2017. ECF
No. 359. Truston opposed the motion, and Healy Tibbitts
joined in that opposition. ECF Nos. 462, 469, 474. Global
replied on November 6, 2017. ECF No. 484.
filed their motion for partial summary judgment on August 18,
2017. ECF No. 368. Healy Tibbitts opposed the motion, ECF No.
459, and Claimants replied, ECF No. 480.
hearing was held on November 13, 2017, regarding the latter
two motions. Pacific Shipyards' motion is decided without
hearing pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue of material
fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The burden initially lies with
the moving party to show that there is no genuine issue of
material fact. T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec.
Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir.
1987). Nevertheless, “summary judgment is mandated if
the non-moving party ‘fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case.'” Broussard v. Univ.
of Cal. at Berkeley, 192 F.3d 1252, 1258 (9th Cir. 1999)
(quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986)). An issue of fact is genuine “if the evidence
is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue is material if
the resolution of the factual dispute affects the outcome of
the claim or defense under substantive law governing the
case. See Arpin v. Santa Clara Valley Transp.
Agency, 261 F.3d 912, 919 (9th Cir. 2001). When
considering the evidence on a motion for summary judgment,
the court must draw all reasonable inferences on behalf of
the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
of the principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to
isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or
defenses[.]” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24.
“There is no genuine issue of fact if the party
opposing the motion ‘fails to make an adequate showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.'” Taylor v.
List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989) (quoting
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322). Moreover, there is no
genuine issue of material fact if, taking the record as a
whole, a rational trier of fact could not find in favor of
the non-moving party. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586;
Taylor, 880 F.2d at 1045.
Pacific Shipyards' Motion for Summary Judgment
Shipyards moves for summary judgment, arguing that there is
no evidence it had a duty to maintain the buoy in question,
or, even assuming a duty existed, no evidence of breach or
causation. Mot. at 6-7, ECF No. 355.
general, admiralty law recognizes the right to contribution
between joint tortfeasors, and liability is apportioned
according to fault. Hunley v. Ace Maritime Corp.,
927 F.2d 493, 496 (9th Cir. 1991). Hawaii recognizes similar
rules. See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 663-12. The
elements of negligence under admiralty law and Hawaii law are
essentially the same: “1) the existence of a duty of
care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff; 2) the breach of
that duty of care; 3) a causal connection between the
offending conduct and the resulting injury, which is called
‘proximate cause;' and 4) actual loss, injury or
damage suffered by the plaintiff.” Cape Flattery
Ltd. v. Titan Mar. LLC, 607 F.Supp.2d 1179, 1189 (D.
Haw. 2009) (quoting Pearce v. United States, 261
F.3d 643, 647-48 (6th Cir. 2001)); see also Cho v.
State, 115 Haw. 373, 379 n.11, 168 P.3d 17, 23 n.11
(2007) (“It is well-established that, in order for a
plaintiff to prevail on a negligence claim, the plaintiff is
required to prove all four of the necessary elements of
negligence: (1) duty; (2) breach of duty; (3) causation; and
support of its motion, Pacific Shipyards submits the
declaration of its Chief Financial Officer, Ben Nakaoka, who
states the following: (1) Pacific Shipyards had “no
involvement whatsoever” in the work being done at the
time of the accident; (2) although Pacific Shipyards had a
contract with the Navy “to maintain the inactive ships
at Pearl Harbor during the period of 2002 to 2007, ”
its contract was for “maintenance of the inactive fleet
itself not the moorings to which the ships were
attached”; and (3) Pacific Shipyards “has no
record of ...