[T][U] Wagner v. Atme - Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals

[T][U] Wagner v. Atme

By Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals

  • Release Date - Published: 1995-03-23
  • Book Genre: Law
  • Author: Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals
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[T][U] Wagner v. Atme Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals read online review & book description:

MEMORANDUM* Lee James Wagner, individually and d/b/a Wagner Equipment Company, appeals the denial of his claim under the Limitation of Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. §§ 183 et seq. He sought a judicial declaration exonerating him from, or limiting his liability for, a 1991 fire aboard his sailboat that resulted in the deaths by smoke inhalation of three of his passengers. We affirm. Pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 183(a), the liability of any vessel owner for any loss, ""without the privity or knowledge of such owner or owners,"" shall not exceed the amount or value of the owner's interest in such vessel, and her freight then pending. The Act applies to pleasure boats, thus covering Wagner's craft. See Hechinger v. Caskie, 890 F.2d 202, 206 (9th Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 848, 112 L. Ed. 2d 103, 111 S. Ct. 136 (1990). The district court must first determine whether damage and liability exist, and then ascertain whether the loss was occasioned or incurred without the privity or knowledge of the shipowner. See Northern Fishing & Trading Co. v. Grabowski, 477 F.2d 1267, 1272 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 1079, 38 L. Ed. 2d 485, 94 S. Ct. 597 (1973). Even if damage and liability are found, if the shipowner had no such privity or knowledge, a limitation of liability should be decreed. See id. Once negligence is found, the burden is on the petitioner to establish his lack of privity or knowledge. See id. As used in the Act, privity means ""some fault or neglect in which the owner personally participates,"" and knowledge means ""some personal cognizance, or means of knowledge, of which the owner is bound to avail himself."" Willey v. Hobbs, 71 F.2d 891, 894 (9th Cir. 1934).

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