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IN THE MATTER OF COMPLAINT OF J.A.R. BARGE LINES

October 5, 2005.

IN THE MATTER OF THE COMPLAINT OF J.A.R. BARGE LINES, L.P., AS OWNER, AND MON RIVER TOWING, INC., AS OWNER PRO HAC VICE, OF THE M/V ROSE G., FOR EXONERATION FROM AND/OR LIMITATION OF LIABILITY.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM STANDISH, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

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.

I. INTRODUCTION

  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).

  III. ANALYSIS

  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 arguments.

  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 Ingram.

 (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.
Id.

  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." ...


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