Shankles v. Armatori

No. 83-1078

722 F.2d 861 (1983) | Cited 73 times | First Circuit | November 23, 1983

COWEN, Senior Circuit Judge.

Appellant, Isolina Vazquez-Gaston, appeals from an order of the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico (Jaime Pieras, Jr., District Judge) granting the motion for summary judgment of defendant-appellee, Costa Armatori, S.P.A. (Costa, defendant, appellee). She instituted this action against Costa for losses incurred and personal injuries sustained as a result of a fire aboard a ship chartered by Costa and on which she was a passenger. She sought recovery of $65,000, the estimated value of personal property lost in the fire, and $100,000 for physical pain, discomfort, and mental anguish allegedly caused by the fire. At issue in this appeal is whether the district court correctly held that appellant's action was time-barred due to her failure to comply with the notice and filing provisions of her ticket/contract of passage. Appellant urges several reasons why this court should overturn the district court's ruling. Because we do not find appellant's arguments convincing, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. THE FACTS AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

The district court summarized the main facts of this case in its opinion as follows:

On March 30, 1979, the Italian cruise ship "ANGELINA LAURO" was engulfed by a fire while in port at Charlotte Amalie harbor in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The fire initially broke out in the ship's crew galley and spread throughout the vessel destroying or otherwise rendering useless the inside structure. With the exception of two minor injuries, no human casualties resulted from the fire, however, most of the personal property owned by passengers and crew were either lost, irreparably damaged by fire or were later subjected to vandalism and looting. Both plaintiffs1 herein were passengers on the ANGELINA LAURO and for this ill-fated trip had purchased passage tickets from Costa Armatori S.P.A. [Costa] * * * Plaintiff brought a complaint against Costa and its underwriters on March 28, 1980, almost a year after the casualty. In this complaint she claimed loss of personal property found aboard and damages predicated on physical and mental duress suffered as a result of the fire.

* Of the Federal Circuit, sitting by designation.

1. Kathryn J. Shankles, originally a co-plaintiff in the district court case, entered into a stipulation of settlement which was approved by the court and her suit was dismissed.

2. As the district court noted, at least two other courts have dismissed claims arising from the Angelina Lauro fire. The suits were filed after the expiration of the contractual limitations period. Aetna Casualty Co. v. Costa Armatori, S.P.A. 1982 A.M.C. 2090 (Cir.Ct.N.Y.C. 1980); Morack v. Costa Armatori, S.P.A., No. 80-0652 (E.D.N.Y.1981), which apparently was not published.

3. Our statement that the case is distinguishable on its facts is not to be taken as an implied agreement with its correctness, a question we do not reach.

COWEN, Senior Circuit Judge.

Appellant, Isolina Vazquez-Gaston, appeals from an order of the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico (Jaime Pieras, Jr., District Judge) granting the motion for summary judgment of defendant-appellee, Costa Armatori, S.P.A. (Costa, defendant, appellee). She instituted this action against Costa for losses incurred and personal injuries sustained as a result of a fire aboard a ship chartered by Costa and on which she was a passenger. She sought recovery of $65,000, the estimated value of personal property lost in the fire, and $100,000 for physical pain, discomfort, and mental anguish allegedly caused by the fire. At issue in this appeal is whether the district court correctly held that appellant's action was time-barred due to her failure to comply with the notice and filing provisions of her ticket/contract of passage. Appellant urges several reasons why this court should overturn the district court's ruling. Because we do not find appellant's arguments convincing, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. THE FACTS AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

The district court summarized the main facts of this case in its opinion as follows:

On March 30, 1979, the Italian cruise ship "ANGELINA LAURO" was engulfed by a fire while in port at Charlotte Amalie harbor in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The fire initially broke out in the ship's crew galley and spread throughout the vessel destroying or otherwise rendering useless the inside structure. With the exception of two minor injuries, no human casualties resulted from the fire, however, most of the personal property owned by passengers and crew were either lost, irreparably damaged by fire or were later subjected to vandalism and looting. Both plaintiffs1 herein were passengers on the ANGELINA LAURO and for this ill-fated trip had purchased passage tickets from Costa Armatori S.P.A. [Costa] * * * Plaintiff brought a complaint against Costa and its underwriters on March 28, 1980, almost a year after the casualty. In this complaint she claimed loss of personal property found aboard and damages predicated on physical and mental duress suffered as a result of the fire.

* Of the Federal Circuit, sitting by designation.

1. Kathryn J. Shankles, originally a co-plaintiff in the district court case, entered into a stipulation of settlement which was approved by the court and her suit was dismissed.

2. As the district court noted, at least two other courts have dismissed claims arising from the Angelina Lauro fire. The suits were filed after the expiration of the contractual limitations period. Aetna Casualty Co. v. Costa Armatori, S.P.A. 1982 A.M.C. 2090 (Cir.Ct.N.Y.C. 1980); Morack v. Costa Armatori, S.P.A., No. 80-0652 (E.D.N.Y.1981), which apparently was not published.

3. Our statement that the case is distinguishable on its facts is not to be taken as an implied agreement with its correctness, a question we do not reach.

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