United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER ON MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT
L. ROBART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court is Plaintiff George Johnson's motion for
partial summary judgment against in personam
Defendant Donald P. Wang, who is proceeding pro se.
(Mot. (Dkt. # 24).) Mr. Wang opposes the motion. (Resp. (Dkt.
# 25).) The court has reviewed the motion, the parties'
submissions in support of and in opposition to the motion,
the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law.
Being fully advised,  the court DENIES Mr. Johnson's motion
for partial summary judgment for the reasons set forth below.
November 10, 2016, Mr. Johnson filed this lawsuit against Mr.
Wang and in rem Defendant the F/V Thor ("the
Thor")-a fishing vessel. (Compl. (Dkt. # 1).) Mr.
Johnson alleges that Mr. Wang failed to pay him $7, 380.00 in
wages for 492 hours of work converting the Thor into a tuna
boat and failed to fulfill his promise to let Mr. Johnson
master the Thor during the tuna fishing season. (Id.
¶¶ 4-6.) Mr. Johnson asserts no specific causes of
action (see generally id.) but seeks the following
relief: the arrest, condemnation, and sale of the Thor;
compensatory, double, and punitive damages for Mr. Wang's
alleged failure to pay wages; prejudgment interest; and
attorney's fees and costs (id. ¶¶
11, 2017, Mr. Johnson moved for partial summary judgment
against Mr. Wang for the alleged unpaid wages. (Mot. at 1.) In
support of his motion, Mr. Johnson proffers his declarations
and Mr. Wang's deposition testimony. (See
generally MDJ (Dkt. # 17) at 1, Ex. 1 ("1st Johnson
Decl."); Mot. at 2, Ex. A ("Wang Dep.");
Errata (Dkt. # 28), Ex. 1 ("2d Johnson
to Mr. Johnson, he entered into an oral contract with Mr.
Wang to prepare the Thor for the 2016 tuna fishing
season. (Mot. at 1; 1st Johnson Decl. ¶ 6.)
Mr. Johnson claims that Mr. Wang promised that he could
skipper the boat for a 20% crewshare if Mr. Johnson agreed to
work at a rate of $15.00 per hour restoring the Thor and
converting her into a tuna jig boat. (1st Johnson Decl.
¶¶ 4-5.) Based on this understanding, Mr. Johnson
contends that he performed 492 hours of shipyard work on the
Thor during the summer of 2016. (Id. ¶ 5.)
However, Mr. Johnson asserts that once he completed the work,
Mr. Wang put the Thor up for sale and did not pay him.
(Id. ¶ 8.)
opposition to Mr. Johnson's motion, Mr. Wang presents a
differing version of events. (See generally Wang
Decl.) According to Mr. Wang, he never contracted with Mr.
Johnson or authorized any of the work Mr. Johnson contends he
did. (Id. at 1.) Mr. Wang testifies that the Thor
was ready to go fishing when he bought her, and he did not
know whether Mr. Johnson performed any work on her.
(See Wang Dep. at 23:20, 25:14.) He also testifies
that Mr. Johnson had been on the Thor, but only to evaluate
the vessel for going fishing. (See Id. at 22:10-13.)
Mr. Wang also contends that he had no reason to check whether
any work was done because he never authorized any work on the
Thor, but admits that Mr. Johnson could have performed work
without his authorization. (Wang Deck at 2.) Mr. Wang further
contests Mr. Johnson's claim that Mr. Johnson worked on
the Thor in June and early July 2016 because Mr. Wang did not
purchase the Thor until later that July. (See Id. at
2; see also Wang Dep. at 12:25-13:2; 1st Johnson
Decl. ¶ 6, Ex. 7.)
court now addresses the motion.
outset, the court notes that the basis for Mr. Johnson's
motion is unclear. Mr. Johnson states only that he seeks
partial summary judgment on his claim for unpaid wages
because "[s]eamen are entitled to quantum meruit
compensation for work performed in anticipation of a fishing
season before the contracts required by 46 U.S.C. §
10601 are executed." (See Mot. at 4.) He
further states in his moving brief that a "more
equitable quantum meruit rate can be determined at a later
time" (id.), but then states in his reply that
"this motion is limited to a demand for quantum meruit
wages" (Reply at 2). Based on the nature of Mr.
Johnson's briefing, the court assumes that Mr. Johnson
seeks quantum meruit compensation pursuant to 46 U.S.C.
§ 11107 based on an alleged oral contract. The court
therefore assesses whether the parties formed an oral
contract and if so, whether quantum meruit recovery is
appropriate. See Dunn v. Hatch, No.
1:15-cv-00479-BLW, 2017 WL 1839279, at *1 (D. Idaho May 8,
2017) ("[M]aritime law penalizes ship owners for failing
to enter into written contracts by awarding deck hands
enhanced damages when they prove they had only an oral
contract, and that it was breached." (citing 46 U.S.C.
extent that Mr. Johnson intended to argue some other basis
for summary judgment, Mr. Johnson was responsible for making
that clear to the court. The fact that Mr. Johnson cites only
scant legal authority only amplifies the lack of clarity.
(See generally Mot.) Indeed, he cites only three
sources to support his motion-a case from the High Court of
American Samoa and two maritime treatises-none of which are
particularly helpful to the court's disposition. (See
Id. at 4.) In this regard, Mr. Johnson's brief falls
below the minimum standards for practice in this court. The
court expects a party to clearly state the basis for its
motion and, when the party makes a statement in a brief about
what the law is, to follow that statement by a citation to
specific legal authority. With this context in mind, the
court addresses Mr. Johnson's motion as set forth above.
judgment is appropriate if the evidence, when viewed in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates
"that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Galen v. Cty. of
L.A.,477 F.3d 652, 658 (9th Cir. 2007). The moving
party bears the initial burden of showing there is no genuine
dispute of material fact and that he is entitled to prevail
as a matter of law. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If the
moving party meets his burden, then the nonmoving party
"must make a showing sufficient to establish a genuine
dispute of material fact regarding the existence of the
essential elements of his case that he must prove at
trial" in order to withstand summary judgment.
Galen, 477 F.3d at 658. In determining whether the
factfinder could reasonably find for the nonmoving party,
"the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor
of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility
determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v.
Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc.,530 U.S. 133, 150
(2000). Summary judgment ...