In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has precluded the recovery of punitive damages for unseaworthiness claims. This decision conclusively resolves a long-running split between federal appellate courts and settles a source of uncertainty in the US maritime industry. With this question resolved, vessel owners and maritime employers are better positioned to assess their exposure for personal injuries and can now arrange the necessary insurance coverages to manage the risks.
In Bisso v Inland Waterways Corp the Supreme Court held that clauses in towage contracts that release the tug owner from all liability from its own negligence are invalid as they contravene public policy. Since then, the courts have struggled with the extent to which Bisso precludes exculpatory clauses in towage contracts. However, Bisso has been widely criticised and the courts have circumvented it by creating various exceptions.
Ride-hail services have quickly become a popular alternative to traditional taxi services in urban areas all over the United States. Uber launched in San Francisco in 2010 and has expanded rapidly to urban centres throughout the United States. Lyft operates in hundreds of US cities. The rapid growth of this new technology has left regulators and legislators struggling with how to balance the necessary regulation of ride-hailing services with promoting innovation and new technologies.
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.