Daniel Doyle, Anne Doyle v. Leland Graske v. Caribe Inflatables USA, Inc


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[B]Case Name: [/B][I]Daniel Doyle, Anne Doyle v. Leland Graske v. Caribe Inflatables USA, Inc.
[/I][B]Date Decided: [/B]September 2, 2009
[B]Court: [/B]United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
[B]Judge: [/B]Judge Colloton
[B]Citation: [/B]579 F.3d 898

[B]Background:
[/B]Boat passenger and plaintiff, Daniel Doyle, brought an action in admiralty for personal injuries sustained in boating accident off the coast of the Grand Cayman Island when the steering linkage engaged and the boat turned hard ejecting Doyle.

Doyle Brought this action in Nebraska state court claiming that defendant, Graske, was negligent in the operation of the boat.

Graske removed the case to federal district and the court, sitting without a jury, found that Doyle’s injuries were caused by Graske’s negligence and awarded compensatory damages to Doyle and loss-of-consortium damages to his wife, Anne.

Graske appealed the judgment.

[B]Issue:
[/B]Did this Court find that the district court erred in finding Graske liable for Doyle’s injuries and ordered Graske to pay compensatory damages and loss of consortium?

[B]Held:
[/B]Graske first argued that it was not negligent in operation of the boat.
The District Court found that Graske breached the duty owed to its passengers by bringing the boat on plane while Doyle was seated in “a position of danger”.

Second, Graske contended that the negligent operation of the boat was a proximate and substantial cause of Doyle’s injuries. This Court noted that only upon a finding of clear error by the district court would it reverse this finding.

This Court found that had Graske exercised reasonable care by waiting to accelerate until Doyle was seated then he would not have been injured.

Finally, Graske challenged the district court’s award of loss-of-consortium damages to Doyle’s wife. Graske contends that general maritime law does not allow recovery for loss of consortium by the spouse of a nonseafarer negligently injured beyond the territorial waters of the US.

A “nonseafarer” is someone who is neither a seaman covered by the Jones Act nor a longshore or harbor worker covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.

This Court found that in the recent [I]Atlantic Sounding [/I]case, awarding punitive damages for the willful/reckless withholding of maintenance and cure, did not establish an admiralty rule authorizing loss-of-consortium damages as a general matter. In cases where loss of consortium had been awarded appropriately, the injured person was either a longeshoreman or seaman.

Accordingly this Court affirmed the District Court’s awarding of compensatory damages but reversed the loss of consortium award.

[B]Comment:
This case touches on whether general maritime law allows the recovery for punitive damages. The short history of loss-of-consortium damages in admiralty consists of only a few cases. [/B]

[B]The Supreme Court in one case, recognized the right to recover loss-of-consortium for nonfatal injuries to a spouse in the territorial waters of the United States. Here, however, Doyle was outside the territorial waters of the US. [/B]

[B]Steve Gordon [/B]

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