United States District Court, D. Arizona
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.
Honorable John J. Tuchi, United States District Judge.
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.).
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.)
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.
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 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.)
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., 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 Alloy, 912 F.2d 1090, 1092 (9th
analyzing a complaint for failure to state a claim for relief
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the well-pled factual
allegations are taken as true and construed in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. Cousins v.
Lockyer, 568 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2009). A
plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations are not entitled
to the assumption of truth, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 680 (2009), and therefore are insufficient to
defeat a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
In re Cutera Sec. Litig., 610 F.3d 1103, 1108 (9th
Hart and Preuit seek to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint on
two grounds. Claimants first argue that Plaintiffs fail to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted because
“Plaintiffs fail to plead any facts to support the
clear recitation of the elements necessary to satisfy a claim
under the Limited Liability Act.” (Mot. at 6.)
Claimants also move to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that Plaintiffs
failed to prove that the accident occurred in navigable
waters. (Mot. at 7-8.) The Court turns first to this
threshold matter of jurisdiction.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
district courts have jurisdiction over “[a]ny civil
case of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1333. As explained in H2O Houseboat Vacations Inc.
v. Hernandez, the Ninth Circuit applies a two-prong test
of “location and connection” to determine whether
“an alleged tort involving a pleasure craft . . . forms
the proper basis for maritime tort subject matter
jurisdiction.” 103 F.3d 914, 916 (9th Cir. 1996).
first prong of the test requires that the incident occurred
on navigable water. Id. The Ninth Circuit has
clearly established that Lake Havasu is a navigable waterway.
Id. Claimants cite to the Code of Federal
Regulations to refute this conclusion, but their citation is
inapposite. (Mot. at 8.) The regulation states that the
waters of Lake Havasu within Arizona, “except the
portion within Havasu Lake National Wildlife Refuge”
are “navigable waters . . . designated as State waters
for private aids to navigation.” 33 C.F.R. §
66.05-100. Claimants do not establish that navigable waters
somehow become unnavigable if they are also “State
waters for private aids to navigation.” Furthermore,
Claimants admit that the incident occurred inside the
Wildlife Refuge but make no argument that the exception of
that area from the regulation means that the Refuge is also
excluded from the ...