JAMES F. LEWIS, PETITIONER v. LEWIS & CLARK MARINE, INC.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
2001 U.S. LEXIS 1698; 69 U.S.L.W. 4129; 2001 Daily Journal 1877
November 29, 2000, Argued
February 21, 2001, Decided
OVERVIEW: The lower court concluded that the trial court erred in dissolving the injunction on the grounds that respondent had a right to contest liability in federal court and that petitioner did not have a saved remedy in state court. The lower court erred in reversing the decision, however, because the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, 46 U.S.C.S. App. ß 181 et seq., allowed vessel owners to limit their liability to the value of the vessel only in cases where limitation of liability was an issue. Since petitioner had stipulated that his claim would not have exceeded the value of the vessel and had waived any res judicata claim arising from the state court action, the trial court was well within its discretion to dissolve the injunction based on its conclusion that respondent’s right to seek limitation was protected. Petitioner had sought a saved remedy in state court because the savings to suitors clause, 28 U.S.C.S. ß 1333(1), reserved all remedies available to petitioner, not just the right to receive a jury trial. Thus, petitioner’s failure to demand a jury trial in state court did not render his personal injury action a matter of exclusive federal jurisdiction.
OUTCOME: Judgment was reversed and the case was remanded because the trial court was well within its discretion in determining that respondent’s right to seek liability limitation was protected and petitioner’s failure to demand a jury trial in state court did not render his personal injury action a matter of exclusive federal jurisdiction.