A marine cargo surveyor fell into the Mississippi River as he was attempting to board a vessel, wearing an inflatable life vest manufactured by Absolute Outdoor, Inc. The plaintiff filed an action in rem against the vessel, pleading negligence, as well as a strict products liability claim against Absolute, under the GML. In its answer, Absolute included a jury demand and affirmative defenses based on the Louisiana Products Liability Act (LPLA). On motion for judgment on the pleadings, the district court struck such affirmative defenses and the jury demand.
“The Supreme Court has recognized products liability, including strict products liability, as part of the general maritime law. The Supreme Court’s rationale in other cases involving injuries to maritime workers — that strict liability should be imposed on the party best able to protect persons from hazardous equipment — is equally applicable when the claims are based on products liability.”
“With admiralty jurisdiction … comes the application of substantive admiralty law. Under the Preemption Clause of the Constitution, federal law preempts conflicting state law.
“However, the Supreme Court has approved the application of state law where it serves to supplement, but not contravene, the general maritime law by filling a ‘gap’ therein. A court may supplement general maritime law with state law under three conditions: (1) where there is no applicable admiralty rule; (2) where local and state interests predominate; and (3) where the uniformity principle is not crucial.
“The applicable rule for strict products liability under general maritime law that has been embraced by both the Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit is Section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts…. The first condition is not met, as there is no gap in the general maritime law for which state law is needed to fill.
“Further, the second and third conditions are not met. Courts have found that, by applying the Restatement in maritime products liability cases, the Court furthers the federal interest in establishing uniform rules of maritime law. Stated another way, state interest does not predominate and the uniformity principle is indeed crucial, such that the Court will not supplement the general maritime law with state law.”
Parekh v. Argonautica Shipping Investments, No.16-14729, 2017 WL 3456300 (E.D.La. Aug. 11, 2017).
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