Nicholas Malfitano Jan. 13, 2016, 2:17pm


PHILADELPHIA – A Pennsylvania federal court has denied a motion from a Greek trading corporation to transfer a maritime negligence damages case filed against it to New Jersey federal court.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s Judge Eduardo C. Robreno denied the transfer motion from defendant Dominique Trading Corp. and its vessel, the M/V Voidomatis, on Dec. 21. The defendants sought to consolidate their lawsuit with a pair of pending, separate cases in New Jersey, so to prevent “concurrent litigation in two jurisdictions.”

According to the lawsuit, the Voidomatis collided with plaintiff Buckeye Pennsauken Terminal’s Dock 2 (a marine oil terminal), located on the Delaware River in Pennsauken, N.J., on Aug. 5, 2014. Buckeye alleges the defendants’ negligence and/or the Voidomatis’ unseaworthiness caused damages of up to $19 million to their dock.

On Feb. 25, Robreno issued a consent order stipulating the defendants were “at fault and liable to plaintiff for all provable and legally recoverable damages," but that the specific amount in damages would still be decided later.

On March 19, underwriters from Westport Insurance Company, who insured Buckeye for business interruption and loss of business income, filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings. The Court later granted their motion on Oct. 29.

Discovery in this case is ongoing with a deadline of Feb. 1, 2016.

As to the question of venue, Buckeye believed since the Voidomatis was stationed at Marcus Hook Anchorage after the Aug. 5, 2014 collision, that a Pennsylvania court would have jurisdiction – whereas, Dominique argued the collision itself occurred in New Jersey, and thus a New Jersey court would claim jurisdiction.

Robreno initially agreed with the defense, feeling the case could have been brought in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey.

“In Continental Grain Co. v. The Barge FBL-585, the Supreme Court allowed the transfer to a more convenient forum of an action in which in rem and in personam admiralty proceedings were joined, even though the in rem action could not originally have been brought in the transferee court,” Robreno said. “Accordingly, plaintiff’s argument that the in rem nature of these proceedings prohibits transfer fails as a matter of law.”

However, upon examining the public/private factors associated with a possible transfer of the case; including, among others, contested issues of discovery, judicial discretion as to a consolidation of litigation even if the transfer were approved, geographical convenience of appearance for the parties involved and docket space in both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey federal courts, Robreno concluded by siding with the plaintiff’s point of view.

“Defendant-movants have failed to show that transfer would be more convenient for the parties and witnesses and would further the interest of justice,” Robreno said.

Therefore, Robreno denied the defense’s motion to transfer the case to the U.S. District Court of New Jersey.

The plaintiff is represented by James J. Quinlan and Jeffrey Steven Moller of Blank Rome, in Philadelphia.

The defendants are represented by Richard Q. Whelan, Charles P. Neely and Frank P. DeGiulio of Palmer Biezup & Henderson, also in Philadelphia.

Westport Insurance Company is represented by Randy C. Greene and Samuel J. Pace Jr. of Dugan Brinkmann Maginnis & Pace, also in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:14-cv-04625

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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