Mr. Rodriguez has extensive experience in all aspects of maritime law, with particular emphasis on collision, other significant shipping and pollution casualties, limitation of liability, environmental regulation, maritime products liability, vessel construction and repair, cargo and chartering disputes. He is an internationally recognized expert on the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and CERCLA, subjects upon which he has written and lectured extensively.
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, December 7, 1944; admitted to bar, 1973, Louisiana. Education: United States Naval Academy (B.S., with merit, 1966); Loyola University of the South (J.D. cum laude, 1973). Associate Editor, Loyola Law Review, 1971-1973. Since 1981, he has been a Professor of Maritime Law (The Law of Collision, Limitation of Liability, and Oil Pollution), Tulane University School of Law.
Author: Chapter IX, Vol. 3 "Marine Oil Pollution," Benedict on Admiralty, 1995-present. Author: "How to Minimize Your Exposure: Practical Strategies in the Defense of Marine Pollution Claims," Environmental Claims Journal, 1993. Co-Author: "The Oil Pollution Act of l990," 15 Tulane Maritime Law Journal 1, 1990; "Overview of U.S. Law of Shipowners' Limitation of Liability," Maritime Law Association Reports (1991) (Reprinted, II Diritto Marittimo, Genoa, Italy (1992); "The International Safety Management (ISM) Code: A New Level of Uniformity," 73 Tulane Law Review 1585, 1999.
Member: New Orleans, Louisiana State (Section on Environmental Law), Federal and American (Committee on Admiralty and Maritime Litigation and Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law and Sub-Committees on Collision Litigation and Limitation of Liability) Bar Associations; Louisiana State Law Institute; Fellow, Louisiana Bar Foundation; Maritime Law Association of the United States (Committees on Navigation and Coast Guard Matters and Limitation of Liability; Chairman, International Safety Management (ISM) Code Study Group); Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute; Associate Member - Association of Average Adjusters of the United States; Annual Subscriber - Association of Average Adjusters (U.K.). National Navigation Safety Advisory Council (formerly the Rules of the Road Advisory Council)(21 members) under appointment from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation (Chairman - 1990 to 1994) (Member - 1987-1990; 2000-present). U.S. Department of Transportation U.S.CoastGuard)-"Distinguished Public Service Award" - 1993.
Selected: Who's Who in American Law; Who's Who in America. Listed in The Best Lawyers in America, 2008; Guide to the Leading US Lawyers - Best of the Best USA 2007; Euromoney's Guide to the World's Leading Shipping & Maritime Lawyers; and Marquis' Who's Who in the World, 2007.
United States Navy - Active Duty (1966-1970), Reserve Duty (1970 to 1995); Captain, U.S. Naval Reserve (Ret.).
US courts continue to rule against physical fuel suppliers in the ongoing saga following the financial collapse of OW Bunker & Trading A/S. Separate courts in three leading maritime judicial circuits recently ruled that physical bunker suppliers contracted by OW Bunker to provide fuel to vessels were not entitled to maritime liens against the vessels. More decisions on this issue are expected at both the district and appellate court levels.
The collapse of OW Bunker A/S and its worldwide subsidiaries left a multitude of creditors seeking other methods of collecting payment for fuel ordered on credit by OW Bunker and delivered to numerous vessels. The US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana recently ruled that a fuel supplier that had contracted with OW Bunker to provide fuel to a vessel was not entitled to a maritime lien against this vessel.
The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently affirmed a decision rendered by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana enforcing a liquidated damages provision in a vessel sales agreement under maritime law. The court analysed the facts and enforced the provision in breach of a non-compete clause that prohibited the buyer from chartering out two tugboats purchased from the seller under the agreement.
The US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri recently held that punitive damages are available under general maritime law in unseaworthiness actions. The court followed a recent Supreme Court ruling which stated that the common-law tradition of punitive damages extends to maritime claims unless Congress has enacted a federal statute restricting its application.
In a dispute arising from a salvage agreement and operation, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently affirmed two of its prior decisions, holding that the term 'arising under' in an arbitration clause is narrowly construed under federal arbitrability law.
The Supreme Court recently held that under the Federal Employer's Liability Act, an injury is caused by the railroad's negligence if that negligence played a part – no matter how small – in causing the injury to the employee. The decision is relevant to the maritime industry because the Jones Act incorporates the Federal Employer's Liability Act by reference for purposes of recovery for death or personal injury of seamen.
Carnival Cruise Lines recently secured a $24 million verdict against Rolls-Royce, which was found guilty of fraud by a unanimous jury. The jury found that at the time Rolls-Royce presented its Mermaid pod propulsion system to Carnival for operation on its largest and most prestigious ship, Rolls-Royce knew the pod was defective and not fully developed.
The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has affirmed a district court order holding that in rem claims asserted under admiralty jurisdiction filed in the same complaint as in personam claims asserted in diversity must be tried together before a jury when the plaintiff clearly expresses its intent that the in personam claims be premised on diversity jurisdiction rather than in admiralty.
The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently held that a violation of the Ports and Waterways Safety Act − failure to report immediately a hazardous condition to the nearest Coast Guard office − is a continuing offence and venue is proper in any district in which such offence began, continued or is completed.
The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a protection and indemnity policy exclusion inserted into the maritime employer's liability policy excluded the alternate employment endorsement inserted in the same policy. The decision emphasises that when securing new insurance coverage, vessel owners and employers must be cognisant of all endorsements and exclusions in existing insurance policies.
The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently reversed and remanded a district court decision holding that the Carmack amendment does not apply to an international multimodal shipment originated overseas under an intermodal through waybill. The appeal court retroactively applied the Supreme Court's reasoning in Kawasaki, which abrogated the binding precedent at the time.
The Supreme Court recently held that the Carmack amendment does not apply to a shipment originating overseas under a single through bill of lading. Under Kawasaki, a carrier which receives goods overseas and issues a single through bill of lading to include inland carriage governed by the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act is not considered to be a receiving rail carrier under the Carmack amendment.
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has affirmed a district court decision vacating a maritime attachment where the plaintiff, a bunker supplier, failed to show a contractual relationship with the defendant shipowner. The decision shows that a lack of contractual relationship between a shipowner and a bunker supplier is fatal to a maritime attachment.
The US Second Circuit Court of Appeals has again addressed the attachment of electronic fund transfers pursuant to Rule B of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions. The court held that the rule that electronic fund transfers are no longer subject to attachment in the New York federal district courts pursuant to Rule B, established in Shipping Corporation of India, applies retroactively.
In a significant victory for international firms engaged in dollar-denominated international transactions, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has concluded that electronic fund transfers being processed by an intermediary bank are not property subject to attachment under Rule B of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
In 2008 the vessel Athena was arrested under Rules B and D of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty and Maritime Claims. The claimant was involved in a shareholder dispute with the vessel's owner and demanded $15 million for its release. However, the courts found that the claims did not support federal admiralty jurisdiction and that the arrest was wrongful.
In a significant opinion underlining punitive damages as not only an accepted remedy in general maritime law, but now a remedy with a uniform rule, the US Supreme Court held that an injured seaman may recover punitive damages in a claim for wilful failure to pay maintenance and cure.
US Customs and Border Protection recently fully mitigated approximately $2.8 million in fines levied against two cruise ships for alleged violations of the Passenger Vessel Services Act. It found that the breaches were not wilful, as the cruises had had to be diverted due to a river closure by the US Coast Guard.
Under US admiralty law, a party may not recover purely economic loss damages in the absence of physical damage to property or damage to property in which the party holds a proprietary interest. However, under the Oil Pollution Act, pure economic loss damages may be recoverable when caused by the discharge or threat of discharge of oil onto the navigable US waters.