The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM STANDISH, Senior District Judge
Pending before the Court is a Motion by J.A.R. Barge Lines,
L.P., Mon River Towing, Inc., and the M/V Rose G.
(collectively, "JAR" or "the JAR parties"), for Judgment on the
Pleadings as to the Claim of Ingram Barge Company ("Ingram.")
(Docket No. 53, "Motion.") For the reasons set forth below, the
Motion is denied without prejudice.
The facts of this case are well known to the parties and
irrelevant to the reasoning herein. In its Motion, JAR seeks to
be dismissed entirely from this case, arguing that inasmuch as
the JAR parties have settled with Mark Allen Smith as to his
claims against them in this or any other suit arising out of Mr.
Smith's accident on January 21, 2003, they are entitled to "be
relieved of the financial and time burdens of remaining in this
litigation in any capacity." (Brief in Support of Motion . . .
for Judgment on the Pleadings, Docket No. 54, "JAR Brief," at
10.) II. STANDARD OF REVIEW; JURISDICTION
The Motion has been filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(c),*fn1 which may be analyzed as either a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss or a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. See
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c): "If, on a motion for judgment on the
pleadings, matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not
excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for
summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56."
Although the parties disagree on the standard to be used in
reviewing this Motion and have attached various documents to
their pleadings, the Court finds no reason to rely on them and
will analyze the Motion as if it were a motion to dismiss.
Under Rule 12(b) (6), the court allows "the non-movant the
benefit of all reasonable inferences drawn from the allegations
contained in the complaint and . . . accept[s] these allegations
as true. . . . However, we are not required to accept legal
conclusions alleged or inferred in the complaint." Breyer v.
Meissner, 214 F.3d 416, 421 (3d Cir. 2000) (internal citations
omitted.) "A complaint will withstand an attack under . . .
[Rule] 12(b) (6) if the material facts as alleged, in addition to inferences drawn from those allegations, provide a basis for
recovery." Emerson v. Thiel College, 296 F.3d 184, 188 (3d Cir.
2002). In considering a motion to dismiss, the court does not
"inquire whether the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail, only
whether they are entitled to offer evidence to support their
claims." Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996).
There is no dispute between the parties as to the propriety of
this Court's exercise of its admiralty jurisdiction pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1333(1).
The Court has two reasons to deny the JAR Motion at this point
in the litigation, the first having to do the Court's prerogative
to manage its cases, the second based on Ingram's legal
At the hearing on April 2, 2004, at which we entertained
argument concerning the settlement agreement between Mr. Smith
and the JAR parties, the Court stated that it would approve the
settlement agreement, "without prejudicing in any way the right
of Ingram Barge to assert any claim it may have against Mon River
Towing or the other parties to this action." (Transcript of
Settlement Proceedings on April 2, 2004, Docket No. 32, "April 2,
2004 Tr.," at 35.) Counsel for the JAR parties subsequently
announced to the Court that following the deposition of Mr.
Smith, they intended to file a motion in which they would ask that under the McDermott [versus]
AmClyde*fn2 and Boca Grande decisions decided by
the U.S. Supreme Court, since Mon River Towing and
J.A.R. Barge Lines have settled for their
proportionate share of liability for this incident,
that they are done and . . . there cannot be a claim
for contribution or indemnity against them if they
are a settling party, even if Mr. Smith goes after
(April 2, 2004 Tr. at 36.)
The Court responded:
I'm not going to agree to that. I'm not going to do
anything until we find out what recovery, if any Mr.
Smith makes against Ingram, and then we'll deal with
it. So you might as well not file that motion until
the matter is resolved. I'll deny it until we can get
to the final resolution of this matter.
We fail to see how this directive could have been more
explicit, but JAR has filed just such a motion. While there is still any viable legal basis on which to allocate liability among
Mr. Smith, the JAR parties, Ingram, and/or the Tri-River parties,
and while discovery is incomplete, the Court concludes that
retaining all the parties will expedite settlement or trial.
Although we recognize, as JAR points out, that the decision in
McDermott promotes settlements and facilitates judicial economy
(JAR Brief at 10), we also believe that by seeking "freedom from
the threat of `back-door claims' for contribution and/or
indemnity," and relying on the remaining parties' ability to
argue that the JAR parties were exclusively responsible for the
injury to Mr. Smith, JAR may seek more freedom than that to which
it is justifiably entitled at this stage of the litigation.
Moreover, pursuant to Orders entered only a few days ago
(Docket Nos. 92 and 93), the Court granted in part a motion by
JAR to enforce the indemnification clause (paragraph 11) of the
settlement agreement, dismissing Mr. Smith's claims against the
JAR parties and requiring Mr. Smith to defend, indemnify and hold
harmless the "Releasees" (as defined therein) against claims
brought by Ingram in Civil Action Nos. 03-163 and 03-180. We
specifically ordered that such dismissal would "in no way, now or
in the future, be construed to affect the claims and/or defenses
of Ingram or J.A.R. or the defenses in Mr. Smith, in Civil Action
Nos. 03-180, 04-753 and 04-1611." ...