The opinion of the court was delivered by: Franklin S. Van Antwerpen, United States District Judge
Plaintiffs Marcy Fahnestock, Thomas Lints, and Andrew Lints filed suit
on April 12, 2000 to recover for personal injuries
arising from a recreational boating accident on the Susquehanna River on
May 31, 1998. The initial complaint, filed on April 12, 2000, named
Sondra Reeder and William Reeder,*fn1 deceased, as defendants. On June
26, 2000, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint naming, in addition
to Sondra and William Reeder, their son-in-law, David Glenlast as a
defendant. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and to Strike claims pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f) was denied by this Court by Order of August 7, 2000.
Defendants joined Thomas Lints as an additional defendant on the
claims brought by Andrew Lints and Marcy Fahnestock. Subsequently,
the matter was consolidated with a related cause of action filed
by Wayne Scott Smith against William Reeder.
Before this Court are two motions for summary judgment, filed by
Defendants David Glenlast and the Reeders respectively. Defendant
Glenlast filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on July 16, 2001 with
respect to the claims against him. The Reeders filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment on August 22, 2001 with respect to the claims against Sondra
Reeder. The Memorandum in Support of the motion also states that Sondra
Reeder has been appointed executrix of the estate of her late husband,
replacing the initial administrator, William E. Haggerty. The Reeders
also move to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims for punitive damages and
The accident occurred on the navigable waters of the United States.
Therefore we have admiralty jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333.
For the reasons stated herein, Defendant Glenlast's Motion for Summary
Judgment will be granted, and Defendant Reeders' Motion for Summary
Judgment will be granted in part and denied in part. We find that neither
Sondra Reeder nor David Glenlast owed any duty of care to the
Plaintiffs, and thus both motions are granted with respect to the claims
against them in their personal capacities. However, the Reeders' request
that the claims for punitive damages be dismissed is denied at this time
because facts at trial could warrant an award of punitive damages. The
Reeders' motion to dismiss the claims for attorney's fees will be
The court shall render summary judgment only "if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). An issue is "genuine" only if there
is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find
for the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986) ("Anderson I"). A factual dispute is "material"
only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. See
id. at 248.
All inferences must be drawn and all doubts resolved in favor of the
non-moving party. See United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655
(1962); Gans v. Mundy, 762 F.2d 338, 341 (3d Cir. 1985).
On motion for summary judgment, the moving party bears the initial
burden of identifying those portions of the record that it believes
demonstrates the absence of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). To defeat summary judgment, the non-moving
party must respond with facts of record that contradict the facts
identified by the movant and may not rest on mere denials. See id. at 321
n. 3 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)); see also First Nat'l Bank of Pa. v.
Lincoln Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 824 F.2d 277, 282 (3d Cir. 1987). The
non-moving party must demonstrate the existence of evidence that would
support a jury finding in its favor. See Anderson I, 477 U.S. at 249.
This matter arises out of a May 31, 1998 motorboat accident involving
two recreational motorboats on the Susquehanna River in Lacaster County,
Pennsylvania. Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint ("Comp.") at ¶¶ 12
and 16. At the time of the accident, Mr. Reeder was the owner and sole
operator a 19-foot Starcraft Crusier boat. Comp. at ¶¶ 14, 94, and
103; Deposition Testimony of Sondra Reeder ("N.T. Reeder") at 12, 14,
29, 41; Deposition Testimony of Pa. Fish and Boat Commission Officer,
Leon Creyer ("N.T. Creyer") at 27; Deposition Testimony of David Glenlast
("N.T. D. Glenlast") at 18. Immediately prior to and at the time of the
accident, the Reeder's daughter, Chandra Glenlast was being towed from
the Reeder boat for the purposes of water skiing. Deposition Testimony of
Chandra Glenlast ("N.T. C. Glenlast") at 25-27; N.T.D. Glenlast at 18;
Comp. at ¶¶ 15, 19.
Plaintiff Thomas Lints was operating his 19-foot 1988 Citation 190 XL.
Comp at ¶¶ 16, 18. Plaintiffs Andrew Lints (Thomas Lints' son) and
Marcy Fahnestock were riding on the Lints boat as passengers at the time
of the accident. Comp. at ¶ 16. Both boats were on the Susquehanna
River in the vicinity of Weiss Island. Comp. at ¶¶ 18-19, N.T. Creyer
at pp. 19-20. Just as Mr. Reeder engaged the throttle and began to
accelerate and tow the water skier, Chandra Glenlast, the Reeder boat and
Lints boat collided. As a result of this collision, Plaintiffs Marcy
Fahnestock and Drew Lints suffered serious injuries. Comp. at ¶¶
24-25. Plaintiff Thomas Lints is claiming damages for negligent
infliction of emotional distress. Comp. at Counts V, VIII and XI.
Plaintiffs' theory of liability against Defendants Sondra Reeder and
David Glenlast, passengers in the Reeder boat, is that they were
obligated, under the Inland Navigation Rules, 33 U.S.C. § 2001, et.
seq. to serve as lookouts and watch for other boats to avoid the
collision, and that failure to perform this duty constitutes negligence
for which they are liable. Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Opposition to
Defendant Reeders' Motion for Summary Judgment, filed September 7, 2001,
at 2-3. Defendants Sondra Reeder and David Glenlast contend that under
maritime law and Pennsylvania statutory, regulatory and common law, no
such duty exists.
Substantive maritime law applies to a cause of action brought in
admiralty. Fedorczyk v. Carribbean Cruise Lines, 82 F.3d 69, 73, citing
East River S.S. Corp. v. Transamerica Delaval, Inc., 476 U.S. 858
(1986). "Although the corpus of admiralty law is federal in the sense
that it derives from the implications of Article III evolved by the
courts, to claim that all enforced rights pertaining to matters maritime
are rooted in federal law is a destructive oversimplification of the
highly intricate interplay of the States and the National Government in
their regulation of maritime commerce. It is true that state law must
yield to the needs of a uniform federal maritime law when this Court
finds inroads on a harmonious system. But this limitation still leaves
the States a wide scope." Romero v. International Terminal Operating
Co., 358 U.S. 354, 373 (1959) (internal citations omitted). In the field
of maritime torts, the federal government has left "much regulatory power
to the states." Id. at 374, quoting Wilburn Boat Co. v. Fierman's Fund
Ins. Co., 348 U.S. 310, 313 (1955). "State law may supplement maritime
law when maritime law is silent or where a local matter is at issue, but
state law may not be applied where it would conflict with maritime law."
Floyd v. Lykes Bros. Steamship Co., Inc., 844 F.2d 1044, 1047 (3d Cir.
1988), citing Coastal Iron Works, Inc. v. Petty Ray Geophysical,
783 F.2d 577, 582 (5th Cir. 1986). Federal maritime law incorporates or
adopts state law except where a significant conflict with federal policy
exists. Calhoun v. Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A., 40 F.3d 622, 627-628 (3d
Cir. 1994), aff'd, 516 U.S. 199 (1996).
A conflict between state and federal law exists in admiralty law when
state law prejudices the characteristic features of federal maritime law
or interferes with "the proper harmony and uniformity of that law." Id at
626, quoting Southern Pac. Co. v. Jensen, 244 U.S. 205, 216 (1917). The
Third Circuit views maritime preemeption doctrine to be basically the
same as preemption doctrine in non-maritime cases. Id. at 619. "Stated
succinctly, in the absence of an express statement by Congress (express
preemption), (implied) preemption could occur either where Congress
intended that federal law occupy the field (field preemption) or where
there is an actual conflict between state and federal law such that: (1)
compliance with both federal and state law is impossible; or (2) state
law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full
purposes and objectives of Congress." Id. citing California v. ARC America
Corp., 490 U.S. 93, 100 (1989)