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.
New Jersey's 'no-fault' automobile insurance scheme has been the subject of repeated reforms over the past 40 years. It aims to strike an appropriate balance between providing accident victims with prompt compensation for accident-related losses and reducing insurance costs for the motoring public at large. In a recent decision with potentially far-reaching implications, the New Jersey Supreme Court rejected the validity of an entire category of damages in motor vehicle accident suits.
Whether a party should seek to apply general maritime law to an incident is not always obvious and the consequences can be even less apparent. Following a 2015 collision by a Ride the Ducks vehicle into a tour bus in Seattle, which killed five and injured more than 60 people, the jurors awarded $123 million to the plaintiffs and split liability between the duck boat owner and the company that had refurbished the World War II-era vehicle. Interestingly, the owners did not file a limitation action.
The Supreme Court will soon decide whether a Jones Act seafarer can recover punitive damages in a personal injury suit based on a vessel's unseaworthiness. The court recently heard oral arguments in The Dutra Group v Batterton, which has teed up the issue that will resolve a split among the circuit courts and provide clarity on the availability of punitive damages for seafarers in general maritime law causes of action. It is unclear how the court will rule on this long-contested issue.
Serious or fatal accidents involving tractor trailers or other commercial vehicles often arise in part from a maintenance defect in the vehicle. When this occurs and the matter proceeds to litigation, counsel for the plaintiff will shine a bright spotlight on the pre-trip inspection that was or should have been performed by the driver. This article addresses three key liability issues that commercial vehicle owners and operators should consider in their practices, policies and procedures pertaining to pre-trip inspections.