United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
CERTAIN UNDERWRITERS at LLOYD'S, LONDON, Subscribing to Policies Numbered 8029663, 8001778, 8071754, 8072492, 8072737, and 8071620, Plaintiffs,
JEFF PETTIT, an individual, Defendant.
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Jeff Pettit's
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Dkt. #23. Mr. Pettit
seeks summary judgment dismissal only of Plaintiffs'
claim to recover costs incurred pursuant to the Oil Pollution
Act (“OPA”). Id. Plaintiffs Certain
Underwriters at Lloyd's, London, Subscribing to Policies
Numbered 8029663, 8001778, 8071754, 8072492, 8072737, and
8071620 (“Plaintiffs”) oppose this Motion,
arguing that they are not bringing a claim under the OPA
against Mr. Pettit and are therefore not subject to the
mandatory claims presentation procedure of that statute. Dkt.
#29. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES
Mr. Pettit seeks only partial summary judgment, the Court
will limit discussion to those facts relevant to the
February 21, 2014, a fire broke out at J Dock at the Shelter
Bay Marina in La Conner, Washington. Dkt. #1
(“Complaint”) at ¶¶ 3.1, 3.3. One of
the several recreational vessels destroyed by the fire was
the IN DECENT SEAS, owned by Mr. Pettit. Complaint at ¶
3.1; Dkt. #6 (“Answer”) at ¶ 7.5. Another of
the damaged vessels was the SHEAR JOY, owned by Bill and Myo
Shears (“the Shears”). Complaint at ¶ 3.1.
The two vessels were moored next to each other. The
circumstances of the marina fire were previously presented to
the Court in the context of a claim for exoneration brought
by the Shears, which was decided in the Shears' favor on
summary judgment. See In re Complaint of Shears, No.
C14-1296RSM, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 258, at *15 (W.D. Wash.
Jan. 4, 2016).
are pursuing subrogated claims in this case against Defendant
Pettit for damages incurred by certain owners of vessels
moored at Shelter Bay Marina. Plaintiffs assert three causes
of action: first, common law negligence claims for damages
incurred by all of their insured, Complaint at ¶¶
4.1-4.4; second, common law unseaworthiness claims, again for
damages incurred by all of the insured, id. at
¶¶ 5.1-5.4; third, a subrogated claim for damages
incurred by the United States Government for oil cleanup,
pursuant to the OPA, and paid by Bill and Myo Shears,
id. at ¶¶ 6.1-6.6. With regard to this
third cause of action, Plaintiffs allege that the Shears
“were considered by the U.S. Coast Guard to be
‘responsible parties' under the [OPA] for oil
spilled due to the fire because oil had spilled from their
vessel, SHEAR JOY.” Id. at ¶ 6.2. The
Shears were assessed $43, 060.50 in costs by the Coast Guard,
and this was paid out pursuant to an insurance policy.
Id. at ¶¶ 6.3-6.4. Because Plaintiffs
contend that the Shears were not at fault for the fire that
caused the oil spill, they are hoping to recover these
damages from Mr. Pettit, asserting that the Shears are
subrogated to the rights of the U.S. Government pursuant to
33 U.S.C. § 2702(d)(1)(B). Id. at ¶ 6.6.
Plaintiffs note that the damages alleged for this third cause
of action are already being sought in the prior two causes of
action “and are not in addition.” Id.
judgment is appropriate where “the movant shows 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); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). Material facts are those which
might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In ruling on summary
judgment, a court does not weigh evidence to determine the
truth of the matter, but “only determine[s] whether
there is a genuine issue for trial.” Crane v.
Conoco, Inc., 41 F.3d 547, 549 (9th Cir. 1994) (citing
Federal Deposit Ins. Corp. v. O'Melveny &
Meyers, 969 F.2d 744, 747 (9th Cir. 1992)).
motion for summary judgment, the court views the evidence and
draws inferences in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255;
Sullivan v. U.S. Dep't of the Navy, 365 F.3d
827, 832 (9th Cir. 2004). The Court must draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See
O'Melveny & Meyers, 969 F.2d at 747,
rev'd on other grounds, 512 U.S. 79 (1994).
However, the nonmoving party must make a “sufficient
showing on an essential element of her case with respect to
which she has the burden of proof” to survive summary
judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
323 (1986). Further, “[t]he mere existence of a
scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's
position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on
which the jury could reasonably find for the
plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251.
passed the OPA, 33 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq., after
the Exxon Valdez oil spill “to streamline federal law
so as to provide quick and efficient cleanup of oil spills,
compensate victims of such spills, and internalize the costs
of spills within the petroleum industry.” Rice v.
Harken Expl. Co., 250 F.3d 264, 266 (5th Cir. 2001)
(citing S. Rep. No. 101-94 (1989), as reprinted in 1990
U.S.C.C.A.N. 722, 723). To facilitate prompt cleanup and
compensation, the OPA requires the “Coast Guard [to]
identif[y] ‘responsible part[ies]' who must pay for
oil spill cleanup in the first instance.” Chuc
Nguyen v. Am. Commer. Lines, L.L.C., 805 F.3d 134, 138
(5th Cir. 2015) (citing United States v. Am. Commercial
Lines, LLC, 759 F.3d 420, 422 (5th Cir. 2014)).
“Responsible parties are strictly liable for cleanup
costs and damages and [are] first in line to pay [for] . . .
damages that may arise under OPA.” Id.
Individuals and entities harmed by an oil spill may file
claims against the responsible party for damages. However,
“to promote settlement and avoid litigation, ”
Johnson v. Colonial Pipeline Co., 830 F.Supp. 309,
310 (E.D. Va. 1993), the OPA establishes specific procedures
which claimants must follow. Specifically, the statute
(a) Presentment Except as provided in subsection (b) of this
section, all claims for removal costs or damages shall be
presented first to the responsible party or guarantor of the