United States District Court, D. Connecticut
In the MATTER OF the Complaint of LIQUID WASTE TECHNOLOGY, LLC, d/b/a Ellicott Dredge Technologies, as Owner Mud Cat MFD for Exoneration From or Limitation of Liability, Petitioner.
Newton Freiberg, Jeffrey I. Carton, Denlea & Carton LLP,
White Plains, NY, Myles Bartley, Mount Vernon, NY,
Christopher Daniel Barraza, Denlea & Carton LLP, White
Plains, NY, for Petitioner.
GRANTING MOTIONS TO VACATE ORDER OF STAY
Alker Meyer, United States District Judge.
March 3, 2018, a dredge capsized in the waters of the Long
Island Sound in Guilford, Connecticut, resulting in the death
of one man and possibly injuries to others. The dredge's
owner has filed a special action under this Court's
admiralty jurisdiction that seeks to limit its potential
liability to solely the value of the dredge. Multiple
claimants, however, seek to pursue relief against the owner
by means of personal injury actions in Connecticut state
court and outside the context of this Court's admiralty
question before me is the extent to which these other actions
should be allowed to proceed. In light of the stipulations of
claimants that adequately preserve the dredge owner's
rights to have this Court ultimately adjudicate its rights to
a limitation of liability, I conclude that the claimants
should be permitted to proceed for now against the dredge
owner in state court. Therefore, I will grant the motions to
vacate the stay of the four claimants who seek to proceed
against the dredge owner in Connecticut state court.
admiralty action commenced on August 7, 2018, when petitioner
Liquid Waste Technology, LLC, d/b/a Ellicott Dredge
Technologies (EDT), filed a complaint for exoneration from or
limitation for liability under the Limitation of Liability
Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30501, et seq. Doc. #1.
According to the complaint, EDT owns a dredging vessel known
as the "Mud Cat MFD (Multi-Function Dredge)," which
it describes as a "self-launching, amphibious
dredge" bearing a "heavy duty excavator arm"
that can be equipped with a variety of dredging tools. Doc.
#1 at 1.
rented the Mud Cat MFD to the Guilford Yacht Club.
Id. at 2. The Guilford Yacht Club in turn hired
Poolscape Pool & Spa, LLC, to operate the Mud Cat MFD.
Id. at 3. Poolscape employed James Willard and
several other individuals who were to be trained in the
operation of the Mud Cat MFD to perform dredging operations
at the Guilford Yacht Club. Ibid. On March 3, 2018,
the Mud Cat MFD capsized, throwing people into the water and
resulting in the death of James Willard. Ibid.
August 21, 2018, the Court entered an order approving
EDT's affidavit of valuation for $178,000 and ad interim
security, and directing issuance of notice and filing of
claims. Doc. #9. Most significantly for purposes of this
ruling, the Court entered an order restraining and staying
the prosecution in any other court of claims against EDT
arising from the incident of March 3, 2018. Ibid.
meantime, six claimants filed answers or claims in this
action. Docs. #16, 18, 20. Four of the six
claimants—Michelle Willard (spouse of James Willard),
Michelle Willard as Administratrix of the Estate of James
Willard, Michael Martocci, and Poolscape Pool and Spa,
subsequently filed motions to vacate the Court's
restraining/stay order insofar as it enjoins them from
pursuing common law claims against EDT in state court. Docs.
remaining two claimants—the Guilford Yacht Club and
Unit Owners Association at Guilford Yacht Club—have
not moved to stay or otherwise participated in the briefing
involving the motions to stay. Instead, the Guilford Yacht
Club claimants assert that they are "pro hac
vice" owners of the Mud Cat MFD and have separately
filed their own Limitation of ...