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In re Admiralty Complaint of Salas

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 12, 2019

In Admiralty COMPLAINT OF Julio SALAS and Monica Salas as owners of the vessel "AZ 5368 BG" and her engines, tackle, appurtenances, etc., Plaintiffs-in-Limitation, for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability.

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          Terence S. Cox, Pro Hac Vice, Cox Wootton Lerner Griffin & Hansen LLP,

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San Francisco, CA, Thomas M. Fedeli, Pro Hac Vice, Cox Wootton Lerner Griffin & Hansen LLP, Los Angeles, CA, for Plaintiffs.

         ORDER

         Honorable John J. Tuchi, United States District Judge.

         At issue is Claimants Brandi Hart and Nathan Preuit's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs-In-Limitation's Complaint for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability (Doc. 14, Mot.), which Claimant Wayne Ramos joined (Doc. 15). Plaintiffs-In-Limitation ("Plaintiffs") Monica Salas and Julio Salas filed a Response (Doc. 21, Resp.).

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On August 6, 2017, Plaintiffs loaned their 24-foot fiberglass "Carrera" motorboat ("the Vessel") to their daughter, Nicole Salas Jahnke. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 4). Jahnke and five friends, including Claimants Hart and Preuit, used the Vessel on Lake Havasu for a day of recreation. (Compl. ¶ 5.) Claimants contend that, at all relevant periods of the outing, Jahnke was driving the Vessel. (Mot. at 2-3.)

         Upon the group's return to the marina around 9:23 p.m., another speedboat approached —a 27-foot Eliminator Daytona watercraft ("Eliminator") owned by Claimant Karen Rea and her husband Henry Rea. (Compl. ¶ 5; Doc. 18, Answ. ¶ 5.) The Eliminator was operated by Henry Rea. (Compl. ¶ 5; Answ. ¶ 5.) Plaintiffs allege the Eliminator was traveling at around 50 miles per hour and was unlighted. (Compl. ¶ 5.) Plaintiffs also allege that Jahnke attempted evasive action but was unable to avoid a collision. (Compl. ¶ 5.) Hart and Preuit agree that Jahnke did in fact attempt evasive action, but only after Preuit shouted at her to warn her of the oncoming Eliminator. (Mot. at 3.) Hart and Preuit also allege that Jahnke had consumed alcohol at some point during the outing. (Mot. at 2.) The Eliminator and the Vessel collided, ejecting and seriously injuring several passengers, including Hart and Preuit. (Compl. ¶ 5, Mot. at 3.) Henry Rea was killed, and the Eliminator sank. (Compl. ¶ 5.) All of the passengers boarded the Vessel and Jahnke operated it back to the marina, where emergency personnel were waiting. (Compl. ¶ 5.)

         Plaintiffs filed their Complaint for Exoneration from or Limitation of Liability on February 6, 2018. (Compl.) As owners of the Vessel, they seek to either exonerate or limit their liability under 46 U.S.C. § 30511 ("Limitation Act"). They allege that "the net value of the Vessel at the end of the voyage on August 6, 2017 did not exceed [$2,500]." (Compl. ¶ 14.) As required by the statute, some claimants[1] notified Plaintiffs that they would commence actions against them, and Plaintiffs allege those suits will seek more than $2,500. (Compl. ¶ 21.) Plaintiffs seek to exonerate their liability, or failing that, limit it to $2,500. Hart and Preuit now move to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint. (Mot.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) may attack either the allegations of the complaint as insufficient to confer upon the court subject matter jurisdiction, or the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact." Renteria v. United States, 452 F.Supp.2d 910, 919 (D. Ariz. 2006) (citing Thornhill Publ'g Co. v. Gen. Tel. & Elecs. Corp.,

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594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979)). The burden of proof is on the party asserting jurisdiction to show that the court has subject matter jurisdiction. See Indus. Tectonics, Inc. v. Aero ...


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