The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINER
This action arises out of a collision which occurred on the Delaware River at Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania on January 31, 1975. The vessels involved were the SS Edgar M. Queeny (Queeny), an American steamship, and the S. T. Corinthos (Corinthos), a Liberian steam tanker.
As a result of the incident numerous proceedings were instituted.
A limitation of liability action (C.A. No. 75-364) was filed by Bankers Trust Company (Bankers Trust) as Owner-Trustee, Monsanto Company (Monsanto) as Chartered Owner, and Keystone Shipping Co. (Keystone), as Chartered Owner and Operator of the Queeny (Queeny interests).
A second limitation action (C.A. No. 75-2110) was filed by Villaneuva Company Naviera, S.A. (Villaneuva) owner of the Corinthos (Corinthos interests). Various other parties have filed claims in these admiralty proceedings, among them Sohio Petroleum Company and B.P. Oil, Inc. (BP/Sohio), owner and lessee-operator, respectively, of the Marcus Hook refinery at which the Corinthos was discharging its cargo of crude oil when the incident occurred.
BP/Sohio has also filed a products liability suit (C.A. No. 77-2362) against Bethlehem Steel Corporation (Bethlehem), builder of the Queeny, General Electric Company (G.E.), manufacturer of the Queeny's propulsion system, and the William Powell Company (Powell), manufacturer of certain parts used in the Queeny's propulsion system (products defendants). The products defendants have been joined in the limitations actions as third party defendants, and have filed third party complaints against BP/Sohio in the limitations and product liability actions. The Queeny interests then filed a counterclaim against BP Ltd. In addition, the Queeny interests have filed a cross-claim in the limitation proceeding, against the products defendants alleging products liability, negligence, and breach of implied and express warranties.
The consolidated limitation actions were tried before this court. At the time of trial the products liability action and all claims against BP Ltd. were severed and continued upon the motion of the products defendants. By opinion and order of February 19, 1980, 503 F. Supp. 337, this court denied the complaint and petition of the Queeny interests for exoneration from and limitation of liability, and granted the complaint and petition of Villaneuva for exoneration and limitation of liability.
Presently before the court are the motions of the products defendants to dismiss the cross-claim filed by the Queeny interests in the admiralty proceedings. G.E. and Bethlehem have filed one motion; Powell has filed a separate motion. Essentially the same contentions are made in each motion. The products defendants argue first that the pleading filed by the Queeny interests is not a proper cross-claim under Rule 13(g) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (F.R.C.P.) as they (products defendants) are not co-parties but rather third party defendants, and, second, that a third party complaint against them under Rule 14 of the Federal Rules is time barred by laches or the statute of limitations, or Local Rule 24. The Queeny interests argue in response that a cross-claim by a petitioner in a limitation of liability proceeding is permissible against a third party defendant joined by a claimant under admiralty rules of a procedure, and that the claim is not time barred. For the reasons set forth below, the motions are denied.
We note at the outset that this is a case of first impression, and that this court does not wish to mire itself in a lengthy discussion of procedural technicalities. It was not the purpose of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or of the unification of admiralty and civil practice to further complicate litigation with disputes over the proper form of pleadings. "The Federal Rules reject the approach that pleading is a game of skill in which one misstep by counsel may be decisive to the outcome and accept the principle that the purpose of pleading is to facilitate a proper decision on the merits." Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 181-82, 83 S. Ct. 227, 229, 9 L. Ed. 2d 222 (1962); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 48, 78 S. Ct. 99, 103, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80 (1957). "The Rules themselves provide that they are to be construed "to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.' Rule 1." Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. at 182, 83 S. Ct. at 230.
Apart from the technical procedural question of whether the Queeny interests' claim against the products defendants is to be classified as a cross-claim or a third party claim, it is manifest that the claim is one which falls squarely within the court's admiralty jurisdiction. In the words of the Supreme Court, "(t)he question is not what "tag' we put on the proceeding ... but rather whether the court has jurisdiction of the subject matter and of the parties." British Transport Commission v. United States, 354 U.S. 129, 137, 77 S. Ct. 1103, 1107, 1 L. Ed. 2d 1234 (1957).
The Court went on to hold that a "necessary concomitant of jurisdiction" in an admiralty case such as the one before this court is that the court "have power to adjudicate all of the demands made and arising out of the same disaster." Id. at 138, 77 S. Ct. at 1107. Moreover, Logic and efficient judicial administration require that recovery against all parties at fault is as necessary to the claimants as is the fund ..." Id. Such considerations are of special significance to this court in a case as complex as this.
The existence of personal and subject matter jurisdiction here is clear. The products defendants have already been joined as third party defendants in the limitations proceeding, and the subject matter of the cross-claim, the collision between the Queeny and Corinthos is already under our jurisdiction. Within the scope of this subject matter jurisdiction are all claims arising out of the collision, including this claim brought against the products defendants, alleging products liability and breach of warranty.
Additionally, since the parties and this court have for convenience referred to the cross-claim filed by the Queeny interests as involving products liability and products defendants, we feel compelled at this time to point out that our use of that term should in no way be construed as an indication that this court considers the claim to be a civil action in tort rather than but another of the many admiralty claims arising out of the collision and comprising a part of this admiralty proceeding.
As for the particular "tag" with which this claim should be labelled, careful consideration of the relationship between all the parties in general, and Queeny interests and the products defendants in particular lead us to conclude that a cross-claim is ...