SZOLLOSY v. HYATT CORP.

No. 3:99CV870 (CFD)

208 F. Supp.2d 205 (2002) | Cited 0 times | D. Connecticut | April 24, 2002

RULING ON THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

The plaintiff, Linda Szollosy. filed this diversity action on behalf ofher minor son, Charles Dean Szollosy, against defendants HyattCorporation, Hyatt Britannia Corporation Ltd., WatersportsAdministration, Inc., and Red Sail Cayman Ltd. ("Red Sail").1 Theplaintiff claims that the defendants are liable for negligence, strictproducts liability, and breach of warranty arising from a jet ski accidentat the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman Resort & Villas ("the HyattRegency") in the Cayman Islands, which is affiliated with thedefendants. The Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, aswell as attorney's fees and costs.

The defendants have filed a third-party complaint against theplaintiffs husband, Charles Szollosy, seeking contribution,indemnification, and apportionment for any liability they may incur. Thedefendants/third-party plaintiffs contend that Charles Szollosy wasnegligent in controlling and supervising his son and that his negligencecaused his son's injuries.

Charles Szollosy has filed a motion to dismiss the third-partycomplaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

I. Background2

On September 7, 1998, plaintiff Linda Szollosy, her husband, CharlesSzollosy ("Mr. Szollosy"), and their son, Charles Dean Szollosy, wereregistered guests at the Hyatt Regency. At noon that day, they arrived atRum Point, a beach area affiliated with the Hyatt Regency. Charles DeanSzollosy and his father waded into the ocean near several jet skis andother vessels and recreational equipment owned by Red Sail, which wereavailablefor rent by guests of the Hyatt Regency. The recreational equipmentappeared at that time to be "tied down, disengaged, and safe." Mr.Szollosy placed his son on one of the jet skis, which then "propelledforward at great speed" and struck a breakwater. Charles Dean Szollosywas hurled over the handlebars of the jet ski and struck the breakwater.As a result of the accident, he suffered permanent disabling injuries.

The plaintiffs complaint alleges causes of action against thedefendants for common law negligence and breach of warranty, andviolations of Connecticut's Product Liability Act, Conn.Gen.Stat. §52-573m, et seq.

As noted above, the defendants have filed a third-party complaintagainst Mr. Szollosy, seeking contribution, indemnification, andapportionment. They allege various theories of liability against Mr.Szollosy, he failed to exercise due care or proper control over his sonor adequately supervise him; he placed his son on the jet ski when heknew or should have known that it could have been dangerous; he failed toproperly examine the jet ski; he used the jet ski without theauthorization of Red Sail; and he caused the jet ski to start. Thedefendants/third-party plaintiffs contend that Mr. Szollosy's negligencewas the direct and proximate cause of the injuries sustained by his son,and assert that if the plaintiff recovers from the defendants, Mr.Szollosy may be liable for all or part of the plaintiffs claims.

Mr. Szollosy has moved for dismissal of the third-party complaintagainst him on the basis that the Connecticut's parental immunitydoctrine shields him from the defendants/third-party plaintiffs' claimsagainst him. Under Connecticut law, argues Mr. Szollosy, a tortfeasor'sclaims of contribution, indemnification, and apportionment may not bebrought against a parent because those claims first require a finding ofliability against the parent, which is precluded by the doctrine. SeeCrotta v. Home Depot, 249 Conn. 634, 732 A.2d 767, 771-74 (1999).

The defendants/third-party plaintiffs contend, however, that (1)maritime law applies to the instant case, and as the application ofparental immunity would conflict with maritime law, parental immunityshould not be applied, or in the alternative, (2) maritime choice of lawprinciples would look to Cayman Islands substantive law to supply the ruleof decision, which also does not provide for parental immunity. Thedefendants/third-party plaintiffs also argue that, even if Connecticutlaw were to apply, parental immunity is statutorily abrogated in thiscase. Both the plaintiff and Mr. Szollosy dispute that maritime lawapplies in the instant case and maintain that Connecticut law applies andwould bar the defendants/third-party plaintiffs' claims.

II. Standard

When considering a Rule 12(b) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts astrue all factual allegations in the third-party complaint and drawsinferences from these allegations in the light most favorable to thethird-party plaintiff. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974); Easton v. Sundram, 947 F.2d 1011,1014-15 (2d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 504 U.S. 911, 112 S.Ct. 1943, 118L.Ed.2d 548 (1992). Dismissal is warranted only if, under any set offacts that the third-party plaintiff can prove consistent with theallegations, it is clear that no relief can be granted. See Hishon v.King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59(1984); Frasier v. General Elec. Co., 930 F.2d 1004, 1007 (2d Cir.1991). "The issue on a motion to dismiss is not whether the plaintiffwill prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled tooffer evidence to support his or her claims." United States v. Yale NewHaven Hosp., 727 F. Supp. 784, 786 (D.Conn. 1990) (citing Scheuer, 416U.S. at 232, 94 S.Ct. 1683). Thus, a motion to dismiss should not begranted "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove noset of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief."Sheppard v. Beerman, 18 F.3d 147, 150 (2d Cir. 1994) (citations andinternal quotations omitted), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 816, 115 S.Ct. 73,130 L.Ed.2d 28 (1994).

In its review of a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider "only thefacts alleged in the pleadings, documents attached as exhibits orincorporated by reference in the pleadings and matters of which judicialnotice may be taken." Samuels v. Air Transport Local 504, 992 F.2d 12, 15(2d Cir. 1993). "While the pleading standard is a liberal one, baldassertions and conclusions of law will not suffice" to overcome a motionto dismiss. Leeds v. Meltz, 85 F.3d 51, 53 (2d Cir. 1996).

III. Discussion

A. Application of Maritime Law

1. Admiralty Jurisdiction

Prior to 1972, courts looked only to the location where the injuryoccurred in order to determine whether a court had admiralty jurisdictionover a case; if the incident giving rise to the cause of action occurredon navigable waters, admiralty jurisdiction existed. See, e.g., VictoryCarriers. Inc. v. Law, 404 U.S. 202, 205 n. 2, 92 S.Ct. 418, 30 L.Ed.2d383 (1971). However, in Executive Jet Aviation, Inc. v. City ofCleveland, 409 U.S. 249, 93 S.Ct. 493, 34 L.Ed.2d 454 (1972), concerningan airplane crash in the waters of Lake Eric, the Court rejected the"purely mechanical application of the locality test," 409 U.S. at 261, 93S.Ct. 493, and held that, in order for admiralty jurisdiction to apply,the wrong at issue "must bear a significant relationship to traditionalmaritime activity." 409 U.S. at 268, 93 S.Ct. 493. In Foremost Ins. Co.v. Richardson, 457 U.S. 668, 669, 102 S.Ct. 2654, 73 L.Ed.2d 300 (1982),the Court refined this "significant relationship" inquiry, providing thatit was not necessary that the vessels be engaged in commercial maritimeactivity as long as the activity or accident giving rise to the actionhad a potential impact upon maritime commerce. Emphasizing the need foruniformity and the fact that the cohesion of two pleasure boats couldpotentially impact maritime commerce, the Court held that, notwithstandinga lack of any direct connection to commercial activity, "the negligentoperation of a vessel on navigable waters . . . ball] a sufficient nexusto traditional maritime activity to sustain admiralty jurisdiction." Id.at 674-75, 102 S.Ct. 2654. The Court applied this view in Sisson v.Ruby, 497 U.S. 358, 360, 110 S.Ct. 2892, 111 L.Ed.2d 292 (1990), where itfound the exercise of admiralty jurisdiction appropriate with regard to acause of action concerning a fire that started on board a pleasure yachtand damaged several other boats and the marina where the yacht wasdocked. The Court held that "the need for uniform rules of maritimeconduct and liability is not limited to navigation, but extends at leastto any other activities traditionally undertaken by vessels, commercialor noncommercial." Id. at 367, 110 S.Ct. 2892.

Seeking to clarify the test as it had developed through Executive Jetand Foremost, the Court in Sisson directed federal courts to engage in atwo-part inquiry in determining whether admiralty jurisdiction exists.497 U.S. at 363, 365-67, 110 S.Ct. 2892. "After Sisson . . . a partyseeking to invoke federal admiralty jurisdiction . . . over a tort claimmust satisfy conditions both of location and of connection with maritimeactivity." Jerome B. Grubart,Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 513 U.S. 527, 534, 115 S.Ct.1043, 130 L.Ed.2d 1024 (1995). The "location" or "situs" prong of thetest requires a court to determine "whether the tort occurred onnavigable water or whether an injury suffered on land was caused by avessel on navigable water" Id. The "connection" or "nexus" prong of thetest requires a court to determine "whether the incident has apotentially disruptive impact on maritime commerce," . . . and whether"the general character' of the `activity giving rise to the incident'shows a `substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity.'"Id. (citing Sisson, 497 U.S. at 363-65, 110 S.Ct. 2892).

Both the plaintiff and Mr. Szollosy dispute the defendants/third-partyplaintiffs' claim that this Court has admiralty jurisdiction over theinstant case. First, Mr. Szollosy contends that thedefendants/third-party plaintiffs may not invoke admiralty jurisdictionbecause neither the plaintiff nor the defendants/third-party plaintiffshave affirmatively inserted a statement in their complaints identifyingthe claim as an admiralty or maritime claim. However, the Court findssuch a pleading requirement unnecessary. See, e.g., Pope & Talbot,Inc. v. Hawn, 346 U.S. 406, 410-411, 74 S.Ct. 202, 98 L.Ed. 143 (1953)(holding that substantive admiralty law applies, though suit was filed infederal court under diversity jurisdiction); Preston v. Frantz,11 F.3d 357, 358-59 (2d Cir. 1993) ("When, as in this case, plaintiffsbring a suit based upon diversity jurisdiction, we nevertheless applysubstantive federal maritime law if we have admiralty jurisdiction."),cert. dismissed 512 U.S. 1279, 115 S.Ct. 31, 129 L.Ed.2d 928 (1994);Capozziello v. Brasileiro, 443 F.2d 1155, 1157 (2d Cir. 1971) ("That thedistrict court's diversity, rather than its admiralty, has been invokeddoes not change the applicable [maritime] law."); see also 29 Moore'sFederal Practice, § 704.01[2] (Matthew Bender 3d ed. 2001) ("It isnot necessary to state specifically that the claim is an admiralty ormaritime claim in order to invoke admiralty jurisdiction. . . . While nospecific allegation of admiralty jurisdiction is required, the allegationsmust invoke a theory cognizable in admiralty."). While an affirmativestatement invoking admiralty jurisdiction may be necessary to obtain thespecial procedural features of admiralty jurisdiction when more than oneground for subject matter jurisdiction exists,3 see Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(h);2 Moore's Federal Practice, § 9.09[2] (Matthew Bender 3d ed. 2001),no such statement is necessary to confer admiralty jurisdiction.

The plaintiff and Mr. Szollosy also dispute whether the facts allegedindicate the existence of admiralty jurisdiction under the two-part"situs" and "nexus" test. As to the "situs" prong, the plaintiff and Mr.Szollosy contend that although their son was injured on water, thewrongdoing giving rise to the incident occurred on land. The wrongdoing,they maintain, arises from the safety of the defendants/third-partyplaintiffs' facilities and accommodations, as well as from certainwarrantiesconcerning the defendants/third-party plaintiffs' businesses. As to the"nexus" prong, the plaintiff and Mr. Szollosy argue that the incidentdoes not have a significant relationship to traditional maritimeactivities and the objectives of admiralty jurisdiction. Rather, theyargue that the facts of this case are similar to those in which a personis injured while diving off a dock, or while swimming at the beach. See,e.g., McGuire v. City of New York, 192 F. Supp. 866 (S.D.N.Y. 1961). Thedefendants/third-party plaintiffs maintain, however, that, especially inlight of the need for "uniform rules governing navigation," this Courthas admiralty jurisdiction over this case as it involves a pleasure craftcollision on navigable waters.4 Foremost, 457 U.S. at 677, 102 S.Ct.2654; Sisson, 497 U.S. at 361-67, 110 S.Ct. 2892.

As to the "situs" requirement, the Supreme Court has stated that a tortoccurs "where the alleged negligence took effect," rather than where thenegligent acts or omissions occurred. Executive Jet, 409 U.S. at 266, 93S.Ct. 493; Williams v. United States, 711 F.2d 893, 896 (9th Cir. 1983)(relevant inquiry is where alleged negligence "took effect"); Kelly v.United States, 531 F.2d 1144, 1146 (2d Cir. 1976) ("The mere fact thatland-based acts or omissions may have contributed to the drowning in thiscase does not alone preclude admiralty jurisdiction."). "Executive Jetdid not reject the traditional rule that `where the negligent actoriginates on land and the damage occurs on water, the cause of action iswithin admiralty jurisdiction.'" Kelly, 531 F.2d at 1146 (citing In reMotor Ship Pacific Carrier 489 F.2d 152, 157 (5th Cir. 1974)). Indeed, infinding admiralty jurisdiction with regard to a jet ski collision inYamaha Motor Corp. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199, 206, 116 S.Ct. 619, 133L.Ed.2d 578 (1996), the Supreme Court accorded no significance to thefact that the plaintiffs alleged that the accident was caused by thedefendants' manufacture and distribution of the defective jet ski,wrongful conduct that arguably took placesolely on land. Yamaha, 516 U.S. at 206, 116 S.Ct. 619 ("Because thiscase involves a watercraft collision on navigable waters, it falls withinadmiralty's domain.") (citing Sisson, 497 U.S. at 361-367, 110 S.Ct.2892, and Foremost, 457 U.S. at 677, 102 S.Ct. 2654); see also Colemanv. Slade Towing Co., 759 F. Supp. 1209, 1212 (S.D.Miss. 1991) (citingWoessner v. Johns-Manville Sales Corp., 757 F.2d 634, 638 (5th Cir.1985)) ("[T]he locality test is satisfied where the damage or injuriesallegedly caused by the defective product occurred on navigable waters,even though the conduct of defendant which allegedly caused the productdefect occurred on land."). Here, the parties do not dispute that CharlesDean Szollosy's injuries occurred on navigable waters when his jet skicollided with a breakwater.5 Accordingly, the Court finds that the"situs", or "locality", requirement for the exercise of admiraltyjurisdiction has been met in this case.

The Court also finds that the "nexus" requirement for the exercise ofadmiralty jurisdiction has been met. In addressing this part of thetest, a court must determine (1) whether the incident has a "potentiallydisruptive impact on maritime commerce," and (2) whether the "generalcharacter" of the activity giving rise to the incident shows "asubstantial relationship to traditional maritime activity." Jerome B.Grubart, Inc., 513 U.S. at 534, 115 S.Ct. 1043.

As to the first prong of the "nexus" inquiry, it is apparent that theincident at issue had the potential for disrupting maritime commerce. Ayoung child's allegedly untrained and unaccompanied ride of a jet ski innavigable waters clearly poses a hazard to navigation. Cf. Foremost, 457U.S. at 675, 102 S.Ct. 2654 (noting "[t]he potential disruptive impact[upon maritime commerce] of a collision between boats on navigablewaters"). Moreover, as the Third Circuit noted in Yamaha, the breakwaterthat Charles Dean Szollosy struck "could have been a commercial boat, orthe ensuing investigation into the crash could have made commercialnavigation in and around the [navigable waters] difficult." Calhoun v.Yamaha Motor Corp., 216 F.3d 338, 345 (3d Cir. 2000). Furthermore, theemergency medical treatment of Charles Dean Szollosy in the water alsocarried the potential to disrupt maritime commerce. Cf. Kelly, 531 F.2dat 1147-48 (finding that Coast Guard's rescue efforts following capsizeof recreational sailboat evidenced incident's significant relationship totraditional maritime activities).

As to the "general character" of the activity involved, the SupremeCourt has held that "[n]avigation of boats in navigable waters clearlyfalls within the substantial relationship; storing them at a marina onnavigable waters is close enough; whereas in flying an airplane over thewater, as in swimming, the relationship is too attenuated." Jerome B.Grubart, Inc., 513 U.S. at 540, 115 S.Ct. 1043; see Sisson, 497 U.S. 358,110 S.Ct. 2892. Several courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, havefound that jet ski collisions on navigable waters constitute activitysufficient to confer admiralty jurisdiction. See, e.g., Yamaha, 516 U.S.at 206, 116 S.Ct. 619; Calhoun, 216 F.3d at 344-45; Waggoner v. Nags HeadWater Sports, Inc., 141 F.3d 1162, 1998 WL 163811 (4th Cir. 1998) (percuriam) (applying maritime law to jet ski accident); Wahlstrom v.Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., 4 F.3d 1084, 1086-87 (2dCir. 1993) (same); Rosen v. Brodie, Civ.A. 94-3501, 1995 WL 102700, at *2(E.D.Pa. March 9, 1995) (same).

The concern that admiralty law be uniform and predictable also supportsthe exercise of admiralty jurisdiction in the instant case,notwithstanding it is alleged that Charles Dean Szollosy was only on thejet ski for a brief moment before his injuries occurred and that thiscase involves the allision6 of a jet ski and a stationary objectrather than the collision of two vessels. "In the cases after ExecutiveJet, the Court stressed the need for a maritime connection, but found onein the navigation or berthing of pleasure boats, despite the facts thatthe pleasure boat activity took place near shore, where States have astrong interest in applying their own tort law, or was not on all fourswith the maritime shipping and commerce that has traditionally made upthe business of most maritime torts." Jerome B. Grubart, Inc., 513 U.S.at 543, 115 S.Ct. 1043 (citing Sisson, 497 U.S. at 367, 110 S.Ct. 2892.Foremost, 457 U.S. at 675, 102 S.Ct. 2654). Indeed, the federal interestin protecting maritime commerce requires that "all operators of vesselson navigable waters are subject to uniform rules of conduct." Foremost,457 U.S. at 675, 102 S.Ct. 2654; see also Moragne v. States MarineLines, Inc., 398 U.S. 375, 401-02, 90 S.Ct. 1772, 26 L.Ed.2d 339 (1970)("[F]ederal admiralty law should be a system of law coextensive with, andoperating uniformly in, the whole country.") (internal quotationsomitted); Friedman v. Cunard Line Ltd., 996 F. Supp. 303, 309-313(S.D.N.Y. 1998) (referring to the importance of the "uniformadministration of admiralty actions").

Accordingly, the Court finds the exercise of admiralty jurisdictionappropriate in the instant case.7

2. Choice of Law

The Court must next determine which law to apply to the third-partycomplaint-federal maritime law, Cayman Islands law, or Connecticut law— in order to ascertain whether, as Mr. Szollosy contends, thethird-party complaint fails to state a cause of action in light of hisparental immunity from a personal injury suit brought by his son. Theplaintiff and Mr. Szollosy claim Connecticut state law should be applied,but the third-party plaintiffs assert that the law of the Cayman Islandsshould be applied.

Ordinarily, where admiralty jurisdiction exists over a tort thatoccurred on foreign waters, a choice of law inquiry would begin with ananalysis of whether United States or foreign law would apply according toa balancing of the factors set forth in Lauritzen v. Larsen, 345 U.S. 571,73 S.Ct. 921, 97 L.Ed. 1254 (1953). However, it appears that there is noconflict among the laws of the pertinent jurisdictions on the issueraised by Mr. Szollosy in his motion to dismiss. See Miller v.Bombardier; Inc., 872 F. Supp. 114, 114 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) ("[T]he firststep in any case presenting a potential choice of law issue is todetermine whether there is an actual conflict between the law of thejurisdictionsinvolved."). First, it does not appear that Cayman Islands law providesfor parental immunity from tort liability. See Jones, Aff. at ¶ 4.Second, it does not appear that federal maritime law provides forparental immunity from tort liability. Finally, assuming that the absenceof a federal maritime rule on point would require the Court to applyConnecticut law, and accepting as true the facts contained in thethird-party complaint, it appears that Connecticut law would abrogateparental immunity in the instant case. Accordingly, it appears that theoutcome of the choice of law determination would not affect the outcomeof the third-party defendant's motion to dismiss.

At the outset, the Court notes that, generally, "with admiraltyjurisdiction, comes the application of substantive admiralty law," EastRiver S.S. Corp. v. Transamerica Delaval Inc., 476 U.S. 858, 864, 106S.Ct. 2295, 90 L.Ed.2d 865 (1986), but the "exercise of federal admiraltyjurisdiction does not result in automatic displacement of state law."Jerome B. Grubart, Inc., 513 U.S. at 545, 115 S.Ct. 1043. The U.S.Supreme Court has stated:

"It is true that state law must yield to the needs of a uniform federal maritime law when this Court finds inroads on a harmonious system. But this limitation still leaves the States a wide scope." Romero v. International Terminal Operating Co., 358 U.S. 354, 373, 79 S.Ct. 468, 480-481, 3 L.Ed.2d 368 (1959) (footnote omitted). See East River, supra, at 864-865, 106 S.Ct., at 2298-2299 ("Drawn from state and federal sources, the general maritime law is an amalgam of traditional common-law rules, modifications of those rules, and newly created rules" (footnote omitted)). Thus, the city's proposal to synchronize the jurisdictional enquiry with the test for determining the applicable substantive law would discard a fundamental feature of admiralty law, that federal admiralty courts sometimes do apply state law. See, e.g., American Dredging Co. v. Miller, 510 U.S. 443, 451-452, 114 S.Ct. 981, 987, 127 L.Ed.2d 285 (1994); see also 1 S. Friedell, Benedict on Admiralty § 112, p. 7-49 (7th ed. 1994).

Jerome B. Grubart, Inc., 513 U.S. at 545-46, 115 S.Ct. 1043.Accordingly, "[a]dmiralty law, at times, looks to state law, eitherstatutory or decisional, to supply the rule of decision where there is noadmiralty rule on point." Byrd v. Byrd, 657 F.2d 615, 617 (4th Cir. 1981)(citing Wilburn Boat Co. v. Fireman's Fund Insurance Co., 348 U.S. 310,75 S.Ct. 368, 99 L.Ed. 337 (1955)). However, "a state law, even though itdoes not contravene an established principle of admiralty law will,nevertheless, not be applied where its adoption would impair theuniformity and simplicity which is a basic principle of the federaladmiralty law, or where its application would defeat an otherwisemeritorious maritime cause of action." Byrd, 657 F.2d at 617 (internalcitations omitted); see American Dredging Co. v. Miller, 510 U.S. 443,447, 114 S.Ct. 981, 127 L.Ed.2d 285 (1994) (state law will yield tofederal maritime law where a state remedy "works material prejudice tothe characteristic features of the general maritime law or interfereswith the proper harmony and uniformity of that law in its internationaland interstate relations"); see also St. Hilaire Moye v. Henderson,496 F.2d 973, 980 (8th Cir. 1974); cf. Princess Cruises, Inc. v. GeneralElectric Company, 143 F.3d 828, 832 (4th Cir. 1998) ("The uniformity isnot to be sacrificed to accommodate state law is a fundamental premise ofadmiralty jurisdiction.").

Maritime law provides that an alleged tortfeasor may seekcontribution, indemnification, or apportionment from one who may becomparatively negligent or a joint tortfeasor. See Cooper StevedoringCo. v. Fritz Kopke, Inc., 417 U.S. 106, 94 S.Ct. 2174,40 L.Ed.2d 694 (1974) (recognizing the right under federal maritime lawto contribution or indemnity from another tortfeasor); United States v.Reliable Transfer Co., Inc., 421 U.S. 397, 411, 95 S.Ct. 1708, 44 L.Ed.2d251 (1975) (providing for contribution or apportionment for comparativenegligence in admiralty cases). However, as noted above, a review offederal maritime law does not reveal any statutory or common lawauthority supporting parental immunity from tort liability. Accordingly,assuming that a Lauritzen analysis would require the Court to apply thelaw of the United States, rather than foreign law, the Court would turnto state law for a rule of decision on this issue, and then determine ifapplication of the state law would conflict with principles of federalmaritime law.

As noted earlier, Connecticut's doctrine of parental immunity "bars anunemancipated child from suing his or her parents for personal injuries."Crotta, 732 A.2d at 770 (citing Ascuitto v. Farricielli, 244 Conn. 692,711 A.2d 708 (Conn. 1998); Squeglia v. Squeglia, 234 Conn. 259,661 A.2d 1007 (1995); Dubay v. Irish, 207 Conn. 518, 542 A.2d 711(1988)). "Under this doctrine a parent is not liable civilly to his childfor personal injury inflicted during the child's minority. . . ."Crotta, 732 A.2d at 770 (internal quotation marks omitted). This doctrinehas also been applied to bar third-party claims against the parents forapportionment, contribution, and indemnification. See id. However,Connecticut has abrogated parental immunity in cases involving theparent's "negligence in the operation of a[] . . . vessel, as defined insection 15-127." Conn.Gen. Stat. § 52-572c.8 Section 15-127defines "vessel" as "every description of watercraft, other than aseaplane on water, used or capable of being used as a means oftransportation on water." Conn.Gen.Stat. § 15-127. Additionally,"operate" is defined as "to navigate or otherwise use a vessel." Id. Asnoted above, the defendants/third-party plaintiffs allege in theircomplaint that Mr. Szollosy "caused the jet ski to start." Accepting thisallegation as true — that Charles Dean Szollosy was injured as aresult of his father's negligent operation of a vessel-Mr. Szollosy'sparental immunity would be abrogated by Conn.Gen.Stat. § 52-572c.Accordingly, even assuming the Lauritzen choice of law principles wouldprescribe the application of United States law to the third-partycomplaint, Mr. Szollosy's actions as alleged in that complaint wouldprevent him from invoking Connecticut's doctrine of parental immunity.9

Therefore, the Court declines to dismiss the defendants/'third-partyplaintiffs'complaint on the basis of Mr. Szollosy's parental immunity from suit.

IV. Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, the Court concludes that thedefendants/third-party plaintiffs have sufficiently stated a claimagainst Mr. Szollosy for contribution, indemnification, and apportionmentfor negligence liability they may incur in the instant case.

The motion to dismiss [Doc. #57] is therefore DENIED.

1. Hyatt Hotels Corporation was dismissed as a defendant by agreementof the parties.

2. As the defendants/third-party plaintiffs have incorporated theplaintiffs complaint by reference in their complaint, the facts of thissection are taken from the plaintiff's complaint. Where the allegationsin the plaintiff's complaint and third-party plaintiffs' complaintconflict, however, the Court accepts as true the allegations of thethird-party complaint and draws inferences from these allegations in thelight most favorable to the third-party plaintiffs. Such conflicts arenoted where they exist.

3. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) provides that Fed.R.Civ.P.14(c), 38(e), 82, and the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty andMaritime Claims apply when a pleading or count "contain[s] a statementidentifying the claim as an admiralty or maritime claim, notwithstandingthat more than one ground for subject matter jurisdiction exists.Rule 14(c) provides specific rules regarding third party practice in maritimecases, Rule 38(e) provides that no right to a trial by jury exists,Rule 82 rejects the applicability of the venue provisions of28 U.S.C. § 1391-1392, and the Supplemental Rules provide proceduresfor attachment, garnishment, actions in rem, possessory, petitory andpartition actions, and actions for exoneration from or limitation ofliability.

4. Neither the plaintiff, Mr. Szollosy, nor the defendants/third-partyplaintiffs raise the issue of whether admiralty jurisdiction is affectedby the fact that the instant accident occurred in the territorial watersof a foreign nation — the Cayman Islands are a Britishprotectorate. Compare Neely v. Club Med Management Services, Inc.,63 F.3d 166, 178 (3d Cir. 1995) (finding admiralty jurisdiction over tortoccurring in the coastal waters of St. Lucia), Afflerbach v. Cunard,Ltd., 14 F. Supp.2d 1260, 1263 & n. 1 (D.Wyo. 1998) (assuming forpurposes of opinion that court had admiralty jurisdiction over accidentwhich occurred in Cayman Islands waters), and Sevison v. Cruise ShipTours, Inc., No. 1996-57, 1997 WL 530267, at *6 (D.Vi. Aug. 15, 1997)(finding admiralty jurisdiction over tort occurring in territorial watersof St. Kitts), with Dunham v. Hotelera Canco S.A., 933 F. Supp. 543 547(E.D.Va. 1996) (finding that admiralty jurisdiction was not proper wheretort occurred in territorial waters of Mexico), and Sharma v. SkaarupShip Management Corp., 699 F. Supp. 440, 448 (S.D.N.Y. 1988) (no federaladmiralty jurisdiction where tort occurred in waters of BritishColumbia), aff'd, 916 F.2d 820 (2d Cir. 1990) (issue not reached), cert.denied, 499 U.S. 907, 111 S.Ct. 1109, 113 L.Ed.2d 218 (1991). Itappears, however, that, the foreign nature of the waters is relevant tothe determination of the appropriate choice of law, i.e., federalmaritime law, law of the Cayman Islands, or Connecticut law, rather thanthe determination of whether admiralty jurisdiction exists. See Sevison,1997 WL 530267, at *6; Grant Gilmore and Charles L. Black, Jr., The Lawof Admiralty 33 (2d ed. 1975) ("Occurrences on foreign navigable watersmay also ground admiralty jurisdiction."); I Thomas J. Schoenbaum,Admiralty and Maritime Law 72 & n. 4 (3d ed. 2001) (admiraltyjurisdiction extends over foreign waters, subject to the limitations ofinternational law); Anne M. Payne, J.D., 2 Am.Jur.2d Admiralty §59 (1994) (same, citing cases). Accordingly, the Court concludes thatadmiralty jurisdiction exists here based on the discussion in the text,as well as its determination that admiralty jurisdiction is unaffected bythe alleged foreign situs of the accident.

5. Despite some conflict between the allegations contained within thethird-party complaint and those of the plaintiff's complaint —e.g. whether Mr. Szollosy caused the jet ski to start or contributed tothe starting of the jet ski — both complaints state that the jetski started and that Charles Dean was seated on the jet ski when hisinjuries occurred.

6. Allision means the collision of a vessel with "a fixed object,rather than another vessel." 29 Moore's Federal Practice, §707.049[1][g] (Matthew Bender 3d ed. 2001).

7. The Court finds that the alleged facts of either the plaintiff'scomplaint or the defendants/third-party plaintiffs' complaint aresufficient to confer admiralty jurisdiction upon this Court. However, theCourt does not express an opinion as to the appropriate choice of law toapply to the plaintiff's complaint, as the pal-tics have not had anopportunity to brief this issue. Additionally, for the reasons statedbelow, and in the absence of a fuller factual record, the Court alsodeclines to reach a final decision on which choice of law must be appliedto the third-party complaint.

8. Conn.Gen.Stat. § 52-572c provides:

In all actions for negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle, and in all actions accruing on or after October 1, 1979, for negligence in the operation of an aircraft or vessel, as defined in section 15-127, resulting in personal injury, wrongful death or injury to property, the immunity between parent and child in such negligence action brought by a parent against his child or or on behalf of a child against his parent is abrogated.

Conn.Gen.Stat. § 52-572c.

9. Although there appears to be some dispute as to whether choice oflaw issues must always be determined before trial, compare Marra v.Bushee, 447 F.2d 1282, 1284 (2d Cir. 1971), and 8 Moore's FederalPractice, § 38.34[2] (Matthew Bender 3d ed. 2001), with Chance v.El. Du Pont Nemours & Co., 57 F.R.D. 165, 167-71 (E.D.N.Y. 1972), theCourt does not find it appropriate to resolve at this time the factualdispute of whether Mr. Szollosy "operated" the jet ski, as there has notbeen sufficient evidence presented to the Court on this issue.Accordingly, as noted above, the instant decision is based on thealleged facts contained in the third-party complaint.

RULING ON THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

The plaintiff, Linda Szollosy. filed this diversity action on behalf ofher minor son, Charles Dean Szollosy, against defendants HyattCorporation, Hyatt Britannia Corporation Ltd., WatersportsAdministration, Inc., and Red Sail Cayman Ltd. ("Red Sail").1 Theplaintiff claims that the defendants are liable for negligence, strictproducts liability, and breach of warranty arising from a jet ski accidentat the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman Resort & Villas ("the HyattRegency") in the Cayman Islands, which is affiliated with thedefendants. The Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, aswell as attorney's fees and costs.

The defendants have filed a third-party complaint against theplaintiffs husband, Charles Szollosy, seeking contribution,indemnification, and apportionment for any liability they may incur. Thedefendants/third-party plaintiffs contend that Charles Szollosy wasnegligent in controlling and supervising his son and that his negligencecaused his son's injuries.

Charles Szollosy has filed a motion to dismiss the third-partycomplaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

I. Background2

On September 7, 1998, plaintiff Linda Szollosy, her husband, CharlesSzollosy ("Mr. Szollosy"), and their son, Charles Dean Szollosy, wereregistered guests at the Hyatt Regency. At noon that day, they arrived atRum Point, a beach area affiliated with the Hyatt Regency. Charles DeanSzollosy and his father waded into the ocean near several jet skis andother vessels and recreational equipment owned by Red Sail, which wereavailablefor rent by guests of the Hyatt Regency. The recreational equipmentappeared at that time to be "tied down, disengaged, and safe." Mr.Szollosy placed his son on one of the jet skis, which then "propelledforward at great speed" and struck a breakwater. Charles Dean Szollosywas hurled over the handlebars of the jet ski and struck the breakwater.As a result of the accident, he suffered permanent disabling injuries.

The plaintiffs complaint alleges causes of action against thedefendants for common law negligence and breach of warranty, andviolations of Connecticut's Product Liability Act, Conn.Gen.Stat. §52-573m, et seq.

As noted above, the defendants have filed a third-party complaintagainst Mr. Szollosy, seeking contribution, indemnification, andapportionment. They allege various theories of liability against Mr.Szollosy, he failed to exercise due care or proper control over his sonor adequately supervise him; he placed his son on the jet ski when heknew or should have known that it could have been dangerous; he failed toproperly examine the jet ski; he used the jet ski without theauthorization of Red Sail; and he caused the jet ski to start. Thedefendants/third-party plaintiffs contend that Mr. Szollosy's negligencewas the direct and proximate cause of the injuries sustained by his son,and assert that if the plaintiff recovers from the defendants, Mr.Szollosy may be liable for all or part of the plaintiffs claims.

Mr. Szollosy has moved for dismissal of the third-party complaintagainst him on the basis that the Connecticut's parental immunitydoctrine shields him from the defendants/third-party plaintiffs' claimsagainst him. Under Connecticut law, argues Mr. Szollosy, a tortfeasor'sclaims of contribution, indemnification, and apportionment may not bebrought against a parent because those claims first require a finding ofliability against the parent, which is precluded by the doctrine. SeeCrotta v. Home Depot, 249 Conn. 634, 732 A.2d 767, 771-74 (1999).

The defendants/third-party plaintiffs contend, however, that (1)maritime law applies to the instant case, and as the application ofparental immunity would conflict with maritime law, parental immunityshould not be applied, or in the alternative, (2) maritime choice of lawprinciples would look to Cayman Islands substantive law to supply the ruleof decision, which also does not provide for parental immunity. Thedefendants/third-party plaintiffs also argue that, even if Connecticutlaw were to apply, parental immunity is statutorily abrogated in thiscase. Both the plaintiff and Mr. Szollosy dispute that maritime lawapplies in the instant case and maintain that Connecticut law applies andwould bar the defendants/third-party plaintiffs' claims.

II. Standard

When considering a Rule 12(b) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts astrue all factual allegations in the third-party complaint and drawsinferences from these allegations in the light most favorable to thethird-party plaintiff. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974); Easton v. Sundram, 947 F.2d 1011,1014-15 (2d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 504 U.S. 911, 112 S.Ct. 1943, 118L.Ed.2d 548 (1992). Dismissal is warranted only if, under any set offacts that the third-party plaintiff can prove consistent with theallegations, it is clear that no relief can be granted. See Hishon v.King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59(1984); Frasier v. General Elec. Co., 930 F.2d 1004, 1007 (2d Cir.1991). "The issue on a motion to dismiss is not whether the plaintiffwill prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled tooffer evidence to support his or her claims." United States v. Yale NewHaven Hosp., 727 F. Supp. 784, 786 (D.Conn. 1990) (citing Scheuer, 416U.S. at 232, 94 S.Ct. 1683). Thus, a motion to dismiss should not begranted "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove noset of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief."Sheppard v. Beerman, 18 F.3d 147, 150 (2d Cir. 1994) (citations andinternal quotations omitted), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 816, 115 S.Ct. 73,130 L.Ed.2d 28 (1994).

In its review of a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider "only thefacts alleged in the pleadings, documents attached as exhibits orincorporated by reference in the pleadings and matters of which judicialnotice may be taken." Samuels v. Air Transport Local 504, 992 F.2d 12, 15(2d Cir. 1993). "While the pleading standard is a liberal one, baldassertions and conclusions of law will not suffice" to overcome a motionto dismiss. Leeds v. Meltz, 85 F.3d 51, 53 (2d Cir. 1996).

III. Discussion

A. Application of Maritime Law

1. Admiralty Jurisdiction

Prior to 1972, courts looked only to the location where the injuryoccurred in order to determine whether a court had admiralty jurisdictionover a case; if the incident giving rise to the cause of action occurredon navigable waters, admiralty jurisdiction existed. See, e.g., VictoryCarriers. Inc. v. Law, 404 U.S. 202, 205 n. 2, 92 S.Ct. 418, 30 L.Ed.2d383 (1971). However, in Executive Jet Aviation, Inc. v. City ofCleveland, 409 U.S. 249, 93 S.Ct. 493, 34 L.Ed.2d 454 (1972), concerningan airplane crash in the waters of Lake Eric, the Court rejected the"purely mechanical application of the locality test," 409 U.S. at 261, 93S.Ct. 493, and held that, in order for admiralty jurisdiction to apply,the wrong at issue "must bear a significant relationship to traditionalmaritime activity." 409 U.S. at 268, 93 S.Ct. 493. In Foremost Ins. Co.v. Richardson, 457 U.S. 668, 669, 102 S.Ct. 2654, 73 L.Ed.2d 300 (1982),the Court refined this "significant relationship" inquiry, providing thatit was not necessary that the vessels be engaged in commercial maritimeactivity as long as the activity or accident giving rise to the actionhad a potential impact upon maritime commerce. Emphasizing the need foruniformity and the fact that the cohesion of two pleasure boats couldpotentially impact maritime commerce, the Court held that, notwithstandinga lack of any direct connection to commercial activity, "the negligentoperation of a vessel on navigable waters . . . ball] a sufficient nexusto traditional maritime activity to sustain admiralty jurisdiction." Id.at 674-75, 102 S.Ct. 2654. The Court applied this view in Sisson v.Ruby, 497 U.S. 358, 360, 110 S.Ct. 2892, 111 L.Ed.2d 292 (1990), where itfound the exercise of admiralty jurisdiction appropriate with regard to acause of action concerning a fire that started on board a pleasure yachtand damaged several other boats and the marina where the yacht wasdocked. The Court held that "the need for uniform rules of maritimeconduct and liability is not limited to navigation, but extends at leastto any other activities traditionally undertaken by vessels, commercialor noncommercial." Id. at 367, 110 S.Ct. 2892.

Seeking to clarify the test as it had developed through Executive Jetand Foremost, the Court in Sisson directed federal courts to engage in atwo-part inquiry in determining whether admiralty jurisdiction exists.497 U.S. at 363, 365-67, 110 S.Ct. 2892. "After Sisson . . . a partyseeking to invoke federal admiralty jurisdiction . . . over a tort claimmust satisfy conditions both of location and of connection with maritimeactivity." Jerome B. Grubart,Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 513 U.S. 527, 534, 115 S.Ct.1043, 130 L.Ed.2d 1024 (1995). The "location" or "situs" prong of thetest requires a court to determine "whether the tort occurred onnavigable water or whether an injury suffered on land was caused by avessel on navigable water" Id. The "connection" or "nexus" prong of thetest requires a court to determine "whether the incident has apotentially disruptive impact on maritime commerce," . . . and whether"the general character' of the `activity giving rise to the incident'shows a `substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity.'"Id. (citing Sisson, 497 U.S. at 363-65, 110 S.Ct. 2892).

Both the plaintiff and Mr. Szollosy dispute the defendants/third-partyplaintiffs' claim that this Court has admiralty jurisdiction over theinstant case. First, Mr. Szollosy contends that thedefendants/third-party plaintiffs may not invoke admiralty jurisdictionbecause neither the plaintiff nor the defendants/third-party plaintiffshave affirmatively inserted a statement in their complaints identifyingthe claim as an admiralty or maritime claim. However, the Court findssuch a pleading requirement unnecessary. See, e.g., Pope & Talbot,Inc. v. Hawn, 346 U.S. 406, 410-411, 74 S.Ct. 202, 98 L.Ed. 143 (1953)(holding that substantive admiralty law applies, though suit was filed infederal court under diversity jurisdiction); Preston v. Frantz,11 F.3d 357, 358-59 (2d Cir. 1993) ("When, as in this case, plaintiffsbring a suit based upon diversity jurisdiction, we nevertheless applysubstantive federal maritime law if we have admiralty jurisdiction."),cert. dismissed 512 U.S. 1279, 115 S.Ct. 31, 129 L.Ed.2d 928 (1994);Capozziello v. Brasileiro, 443 F.2d 1155, 1157 (2d Cir. 1971) ("That thedistrict court's diversity, rather than its admiralty, has been invokeddoes not change the applicable [maritime] law."); see also 29 Moore'sFederal Practice, § 704.01[2] (Matthew Bender 3d ed. 2001) ("It isnot necessary to state specifically that the claim is an admiralty ormaritime claim in order to invoke admiralty jurisdiction. . . . While nospecific allegation of admiralty jurisdiction is required, the allegationsmust invoke a theory cognizable in admiralty."). While an affirmativestatement invoking admiralty jurisdiction may be necessary to obtain thespecial procedural features of admiralty jurisdiction when more than oneground for subject matter jurisdiction exists,3 see Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(h);2 Moore's Federal Practice, § 9.09[2] (Matthew Bender 3d ed. 2001),no such statement is necessary to confer admiralty jurisdiction.

The plaintiff and Mr. Szollosy also dispute whether the facts allegedindicate the existence of admiralty jurisdiction under the two-part"situs" and "nexus" test. As to the "situs" prong, the plaintiff and Mr.Szollosy contend that although their son was injured on water, thewrongdoing giving rise to the incident occurred on land. The wrongdoing,they maintain, arises from the safety of the defendants/third-partyplaintiffs' facilities and accommodations, as well as from certainwarrantiesconcerning the defendants/third-party plaintiffs' businesses. As to the"nexus" prong, the plaintiff and Mr. Szollosy argue that the incidentdoes not have a significant relationship to traditional maritimeactivities and the objectives of admiralty jurisdiction. Rather, theyargue that the facts of this case are similar to those in which a personis injured while diving off a dock, or while swimming at the beach. See,e.g., McGuire v. City of New York, 192 F. Supp. 866 (S.D.N.Y. 1961). Thedefendants/third-party plaintiffs maintain, however, that, especially inlight of the need for "uniform rules governing navigation," this Courthas admiralty jurisdiction over this case as it involves a pleasure craftcollision on navigable waters.4 Foremost, 457 U.S. at 677, 102 S.Ct.2654; Sisson, 497 U.S. at 361-67, 110 S.Ct. 2892.

As to the "situs" requirement, the Supreme Court has stated that a tortoccurs "where the alleged negligence took effect," rather than where thenegligent acts or omissions occurred. Executive Jet, 409 U.S. at 266, 93S.Ct. 493; Williams v. United States, 711 F.2d 893, 896 (9th Cir. 1983)(relevant inquiry is where alleged negligence "took effect"); Kelly v.United States, 531 F.2d 1144, 1146 (2d Cir. 1976) ("The mere fact thatland-based acts or omissions may have contributed to the drowning in thiscase does not alone preclude admiralty jurisdiction."). "Executive Jetdid not reject the traditional rule that `where the negligent actoriginates on land and the damage occurs on water, the cause of action iswithin admiralty jurisdiction.'" Kelly, 531 F.2d at 1146 (citing In reMotor Ship Pacific Carrier 489 F.2d 152, 157 (5th Cir. 1974)). Indeed, infinding admiralty jurisdiction with regard to a jet ski collision inYamaha Motor Corp. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199, 206, 116 S.Ct. 619, 133L.Ed.2d 578 (1996), the Supreme Court accorded no significance to thefact that the plaintiffs alleged that the accident was caused by thedefendants' manufacture and distribution of the defective jet ski,wrongful conduct that arguably took placesolely on land. Yamaha, 516 U.S. at 206, 116 S.Ct. 619 ("Because thiscase involves a watercraft collision on navigable waters, it falls withinadmiralty's domain.") (citing Sisson, 497 U.S. at 361-367, 110 S.Ct.2892, and Foremost, 457 U.S. at 677, 102 S.Ct. 2654); see also Colemanv. Slade Towing Co., 759 F. Supp. 1209, 1212 (S.D.Miss. 1991) (citingWoessner v. Johns-Manville Sales Corp., 757 F.2d 634, 638 (5th Cir.1985)) ("[T]he locality test is satisfied where the damage or injuriesallegedly caused by the defective product occurred on navigable waters,even though the conduct of defendant which allegedly caused the productdefect occurred on land."). Here, the parties do not dispute that CharlesDean Szollosy's injuries occurred on navigable waters when his jet skicollided with a breakwater.5 Accordingly, the Court finds that the"situs", or "locality", requirement for the exercise of admiraltyjurisdiction has been met in this case.

The Court also finds that the "nexus" requirement for the exercise ofadmiralty jurisdiction has been met. In addressing this part of thetest, a court must determine (1) whether the incident has a "potentiallydisruptive impact on maritime commerce," and (2) whether the "generalcharacter" of the activity giving rise to the incident shows "asubstantial relationship to traditional maritime activity." Jerome B.Grubart, Inc., 513 U.S. at 534, 115 S.Ct. 1043.

As to the first prong of the "nexus" inquiry, it is apparent that theincident at issue had the potential for disrupting maritime commerce. Ayoung child's allegedly untrained and unaccompanied ride of a jet ski innavigable waters clearly poses a hazard to navigation. Cf. Foremost, 457U.S. at 675, 102 S.Ct. 2654 (noting "[t]he potential disruptive impact[upon maritime commerce] of a collision between boats on navigablewaters"). Moreover, as the Third Circuit noted in Yamaha, the breakwaterthat Charles Dean Szollosy struck "could have been a commercial boat, orthe ensuing investigation into the crash could have made commercialnavigation in and around the [navigable waters] difficult." Calhoun v.Yamaha Motor Corp., 216 F.3d 338, 345 (3d Cir. 2000). Furthermore, theemergency medical treatment of Charles Dean Szollosy in the water alsocarried the potential to disrupt maritime commerce. Cf. Kelly, 531 F.2dat 1147-48 (finding that Coast Guard's rescue efforts following capsizeof recreational sailboat evidenced incident's significant relationship totraditional maritime activities).

As to the "general character" of the activity involved, the SupremeCourt has held that "[n]avigation of boats in navigable waters clearlyfalls within the substantial relationship; storing them at a marina onnavigable waters is close enough; whereas in flying an airplane over thewater, as in swimming, the relationship is too attenuated." Jerome B.Grubart, Inc., 513 U.S. at 540, 115 S.Ct. 1043; see Sisson, 497 U.S. 358,110 S.Ct. 2892. Several courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, havefound that jet ski collisions on navigable waters constitute activitysufficient to confer admiralty jurisdiction. See, e.g., Yamaha, 516 U.S.at 206, 116 S.Ct. 619; Calhoun, 216 F.3d at 344-45; Waggoner v. Nags HeadWater Sports, Inc., 141 F.3d 1162, 1998 WL 163811 (4th Cir. 1998) (percuriam) (applying maritime law to jet ski accident); Wahlstrom v.Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., 4 F.3d 1084, 1086-87 (2dCir. 1993) (same); Rosen v. Brodie, Civ.A. 94-3501, 1995 WL 102700, at *2(E.D.Pa. March 9, 1995) (same).

The concern that admiralty law be uniform and predictable also supportsthe exercise of admiralty jurisdiction in the instant case,notwithstanding it is alleged that Charles Dean Szollosy was only on thejet ski for a brief moment before his injuries occurred and that thiscase involves the allision6 of a jet ski and a stationary objectrather than the collision of two vessels. "In the cases after ExecutiveJet, the Court stressed the need for a maritime connection, but found onein the navigation or berthing of pleasure boats, despite the facts thatthe pleasure boat activity took place near shore, where States have astrong interest in applying their own tort law, or was not on all fourswith the maritime shipping and commerce that has traditionally made upthe business of most maritime torts." Jerome B. Grubart, Inc., 513 U.S.at 543, 115 S.Ct. 1043 (citing Sisson, 497 U.S. at 367, 110 S.Ct. 2892.Foremost, 457 U.S. at 675, 102 S.Ct. 2654). Indeed, the federal interestin protecting maritime commerce requires that "all operators of vesselson navigable waters are subject to uniform rules of conduct." Foremost,457 U.S. at 675, 102 S.Ct. 2654; see also Moragne v. States MarineLines, Inc., 398 U.S. 375, 401-02, 90 S.Ct. 1772, 26 L.Ed.2d 339 (1970)("[F]ederal admiralty law should be a system of law coextensive with, andoperating uniformly in, the whole country.") (internal quotationsomitted); Friedman v. Cunard Line Ltd., 996 F. Supp. 303, 309-313(S.D.N.Y. 1998) (referring to the importance of the "uniformadministration of admiralty actions").

Accordingly, the Court finds the exercise of admiralty jurisdictionappropriate in the instant case.7

2. Choice of Law

The Court must next determine which law to apply to the third-partycomplaint-federal maritime law, Cayman Islands law, or Connecticut law— in order to ascertain whether, as Mr. Szollosy contends, thethird-party complaint fails to state a cause of action in light of hisparental immunity from a personal injury suit brought by his son. Theplaintiff and Mr. Szollosy claim Connecticut state law should be applied,but the third-party plaintiffs assert that the law of the Cayman Islandsshould be applied.

Ordinarily, where admiralty jurisdiction exists over a tort thatoccurred on foreign waters, a choice of law inquiry would begin with ananalysis of whether United States or foreign law would apply according toa balancing of the factors set forth in Lauritzen v. Larsen, 345 U.S. 571,73 S.Ct. 921, 97 L.Ed. 1254 (1953). However, it appears that there is noconflict among the laws of the pertinent jurisdictions on the issueraised by Mr. Szollosy in his motion to dismiss. See Miller v.Bombardier; Inc., 872 F. Supp. 114, 114 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) ("[T]he firststep in any case presenting a potential choice of law issue is todetermine whether there is an actual conflict between the law of thejurisdictionsinvolved."). First, it does not appear that Cayman Islands law providesfor parental immunity from tort liability. See Jones, Aff. at ¶ 4.Second, it does not appear that federal maritime law provides forparental immunity from tort liability. Finally, assuming that the absenceof a federal maritime rule on point would require the Court to applyConnecticut law, and accepting as true the facts contained in thethird-party complaint, it appears that Connecticut law would abrogateparental immunity in the instant case. Accordingly, it appears that theoutcome of the choice of law determination would not affect the outcomeof the third-party defendant's motion to dismiss.

At the outset, the Court notes that, generally, "with admiraltyjurisdiction, comes the application of substantive admiralty law," EastRiver S.S. Corp. v. Transamerica Delaval Inc., 476 U.S. 858, 864, 106S.Ct. 2295, 90 L.Ed.2d 865 (1986), but the "exercise of federal admiraltyjurisdiction does not result in automatic displacement of state law."Jerome B. Grubart, Inc., 513 U.S. at 545, 115 S.Ct. 1043. The U.S.Supreme Court has stated:

"It is true that state law must yield to the needs of a uniform federal maritime law when this Court finds inroads on a harmonious system. But this limitation still leaves the States a wide scope." Romero v. International Terminal Operating Co., 358 U.S. 354, 373, 79 S.Ct. 468, 480-481, 3 L.Ed.2d 368 (1959) (footnote omitted). See East River, supra, at 864-865, 106 S.Ct., at 2298-2299 ("Drawn from state and federal sources, the general maritime law is an amalgam of traditional common-law rules, modifications of those rules, and newly created rules" (footnote omitted)). Thus, the city's proposal to synchronize the jurisdictional enquiry with the test for determining the applicable substantive law would discard a fundamental feature of admiralty law, that federal admiralty courts sometimes do apply state law. See, e.g., American Dredging Co. v. Miller, 510 U.S. 443, 451-452, 114 S.Ct. 981, 987, 127 L.Ed.2d 285 (1994); see also 1 S. Friedell, Benedict on Admiralty § 112, p. 7-49 (7th ed. 1994).

Jerome B. Grubart, Inc., 513 U.S. at 545-46, 115 S.Ct. 1043.Accordingly, "[a]dmiralty law, at times, looks to state law, eitherstatutory or decisional, to supply the rule of decision where there is noadmiralty rule on point." Byrd v. Byrd, 657 F.2d 615, 617 (4th Cir. 1981)(citing Wilburn Boat Co. v. Fireman's Fund Insurance Co., 348 U.S. 310,75 S.Ct. 368, 99 L.Ed. 337 (1955)). However, "a state law, even though itdoes not contravene an established principle of admiralty law will,nevertheless, not be applied where its adoption would impair theuniformity and simplicity which is a basic principle of the federaladmiralty law, or where its application would defeat an otherwisemeritorious maritime cause of action." Byrd, 657 F.2d at 617 (internalcitations omitted); see American Dredging Co. v. Miller, 510 U.S. 443,447, 114 S.Ct. 981, 127 L.Ed.2d 285 (1994) (state law will yield tofederal maritime law where a state remedy "works material prejudice tothe characteristic features of the general maritime law or interfereswith the proper harmony and uniformity of that law in its internationaland interstate relations"); see also St. Hilaire Moye v. Henderson,496 F.2d 973, 980 (8th Cir. 1974); cf. Princess Cruises, Inc. v. GeneralElectric Company, 143 F.3d 828, 832 (4th Cir. 1998) ("The uniformity isnot to be sacrificed to accommodate state law is a fundamental premise ofadmiralty jurisdiction.").

Maritime law provides that an alleged tortfeasor may seekcontribution, indemnification, or apportionment from one who may becomparatively negligent or a joint tortfeasor. See Cooper StevedoringCo. v. Fritz Kopke, Inc., 417 U.S. 106, 94 S.Ct. 2174,40 L.Ed.2d 694 (1974) (recognizing the right under federal maritime lawto contribution or indemnity from another tortfeasor); United States v.Reliable Transfer Co., Inc., 421 U.S. 397, 411, 95 S.Ct. 1708, 44 L.Ed.2d251 (1975) (providing for contribution or apportionment for comparativenegligence in admiralty cases). However, as noted above, a review offederal maritime law does not reveal any statutory or common lawauthority supporting parental immunity from tort liability. Accordingly,assuming that a Lauritzen analysis would require the Court to apply thelaw of the United States, rather than foreign law, the Court would turnto state law for a rule of decision on this issue, and then determine ifapplication of the state law would conflict with principles of federalmaritime law.

As noted earlier, Connecticut's doctrine of parental immunity "bars anunemancipated child from suing his or her parents for personal injuries."Crotta, 732 A.2d at 770 (citing Ascuitto v. Farricielli, 244 Conn. 692,711 A.2d 708 (Conn. 1998); Squeglia v. Squeglia, 234 Conn. 259,661 A.2d 1007 (1995); Dubay v. Irish, 207 Conn. 518, 542 A.2d 711(1988)). "Under this doctrine a parent is not liable civilly to his childfor personal injury inflicted during the child's minority. . . ."Crotta, 732 A.2d at 770 (internal quotation marks omitted). This doctrinehas also been applied to bar third-party claims against the parents forapportionment, contribution, and indemnification. See id. However,Connecticut has abrogated parental immunity in cases involving theparent's "negligence in the operation of a[] . . . vessel, as defined insection 15-127." Conn.Gen. Stat. § 52-572c.8 Section 15-127defines "vessel" as "every description of watercraft, other than aseaplane on water, used or capable of being used as a means oftransportation on water." Conn.Gen.Stat. § 15-127. Additionally,"operate" is defined as "to navigate or otherwise use a vessel." Id. Asnoted above, the defendants/third-party plaintiffs allege in theircomplaint that Mr. Szollosy "caused the jet ski to start." Accepting thisallegation as true — that Charles Dean Szollosy was injured as aresult of his father's negligent operation of a vessel-Mr. Szollosy'sparental immunity would be abrogated by Conn.Gen.Stat. § 52-572c.Accordingly, even assuming the Lauritzen choice of law principles wouldprescribe the application of United States law to the third-partycomplaint, Mr. Szollosy's actions as alleged in that complaint wouldprevent him from invoking Connecticut's doctrine of parental immunity.9

Therefore, the Court declines to dismiss the defendants/'third-partyplaintiffs'complaint on the basis of Mr. Szollosy's parental immunity from suit.

IV. Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, the Court concludes that thedefendants/third-party plaintiffs have sufficiently stated a claimagainst Mr. Szollosy for contribution, indemnification, and apportionmentfor negligence liability they may incur in the instant case.

The motion to dismiss [Doc. #57] is therefore DENIED.

1. Hyatt Hotels Corporation was dismissed as a defendant by agreementof the parties.

2. As the defendants/third-party plaintiffs have incorporated theplaintiffs complaint by reference in their complaint, the facts of thissection are taken from the plaintiff's complaint. Where the allegationsin the plaintiff's complaint and third-party plaintiffs' complaintconflict, however, the Court accepts as true the allegations of thethird-party complaint and draws inferences from these allegations in thelight most favorable to the third-party plaintiffs. Such conflicts arenoted where they exist.

3. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) provides that Fed.R.Civ.P.14(c), 38(e), 82, and the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty andMaritime Claims apply when a pleading or count "contain[s] a statementidentifying the claim as an admiralty or maritime claim, notwithstandingthat more than one ground for subject matter jurisdiction exists.Rule 14(c) provides specific rules regarding third party practice in maritimecases, Rule 38(e) provides that no right to a trial by jury exists,Rule 82 rejects the applicability of the venue provisions of28 U.S.C. § 1391-1392, and the Supplemental Rules provide proceduresfor attachment, garnishment, actions in rem, possessory, petitory andpartition actions, and actions for exoneration from or limitation ofliability.

4. Neither the plaintiff, Mr. Szollosy, nor the defendants/third-partyplaintiffs raise the issue of whether admiralty jurisdiction is affectedby the fact that the instant accident occurred in the territorial watersof a foreign nation — the Cayman Islands are a Britishprotectorate. Compare Neely v. Club Med Management Services, Inc.,63 F.3d 166, 178 (3d Cir. 1995) (finding admiralty jurisdiction over tortoccurring in the coastal waters of St. Lucia), Afflerbach v. Cunard,Ltd., 14 F. Supp.2d 1260, 1263 & n. 1 (D.Wyo. 1998) (assuming forpurposes of opinion that court had admiralty jurisdiction over accidentwhich occurred in Cayman Islands waters), and Sevison v. Cruise ShipTours, Inc., No. 1996-57, 1997 WL 530267, at *6 (D.Vi. Aug. 15, 1997)(finding admiralty jurisdiction over tort occurring in territorial watersof St. Kitts), with Dunham v. Hotelera Canco S.A., 933 F. Supp. 543 547(E.D.Va. 1996) (finding that admiralty jurisdiction was not proper wheretort occurred in territorial waters of Mexico), and Sharma v. SkaarupShip Management Corp., 699 F. Supp. 440, 448 (S.D.N.Y. 1988) (no federaladmiralty jurisdiction where tort occurred in waters of BritishColumbia), aff'd, 916 F.2d 820 (2d Cir. 1990) (issue not reached), cert.denied, 499 U.S. 907, 111 S.Ct. 1109, 113 L.Ed.2d 218 (1991). Itappears, however, that, the foreign nature of the waters is relevant tothe determination of the appropriate choice of law, i.e., federalmaritime law, law of the Cayman Islands, or Connecticut law, rather thanthe determination of whether admiralty jurisdiction exists. See Sevison,1997 WL 530267, at *6; Grant Gilmore and Charles L. Black, Jr., The Lawof Admiralty 33 (2d ed. 1975) ("Occurrences on foreign navigable watersmay also ground admiralty jurisdiction."); I Thomas J. Schoenbaum,Admiralty and Maritime Law 72 & n. 4 (3d ed. 2001) (admiraltyjurisdiction extends over foreign waters, subject to the limitations ofinternational law); Anne M. Payne, J.D., 2 Am.Jur.2d Admiralty §59 (1994) (same, citing cases). Accordingly, the Court concludes thatadmiralty jurisdiction exists here based on the discussion in the text,as well as its determination that admiralty jurisdiction is unaffected bythe alleged foreign situs of the accident.

5. Despite some conflict between the allegations contained within thethird-party complaint and those of the plaintiff's complaint —e.g. whether Mr. Szollosy caused the jet ski to start or contributed tothe starting of the jet ski — both complaints state that the jetski started and that Charles Dean was seated on the jet ski when hisinjuries occurred.

6. Allision means the collision of a vessel with "a fixed object,rather than another vessel." 29 Moore's Federal Practice, §707.049[1][g] (Matthew Bender 3d ed. 2001).

7. The Court finds that the alleged facts of either the plaintiff'scomplaint or the defendants/third-party plaintiffs' complaint aresufficient to confer admiralty jurisdiction upon this Court. However, theCourt does not express an opinion as to the appropriate choice of law toapply to the plaintiff's complaint, as the pal-tics have not had anopportunity to brief this issue. Additionally, for the reasons statedbelow, and in the absence of a fuller factual record, the Court alsodeclines to reach a final decision on which choice of law must be appliedto the third-party complaint.

8. Conn.Gen.Stat. § 52-572c provides:

In all actions for negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle, and in all actions accruing on or after October 1, 1979, for negligence in the operation of an aircraft or vessel, as defined in section 15-127, resulting in personal injury, wrongful death or injury to property, the immunity between parent and child in such negligence action brought by a parent against his child or or on behalf of a child against his parent is abrogated.

Conn.Gen.Stat. § 52-572c.

9. Although there appears to be some dispute as to whether choice oflaw issues must always be determined before trial, compare Marra v.Bushee, 447 F.2d 1282, 1284 (2d Cir. 1971), and 8 Moore's FederalPractice, § 38.34[2] (Matthew Bender 3d ed. 2001), with Chance v.El. Du Pont Nemours & Co., 57 F.R.D. 165, 167-71 (E.D.N.Y. 1972), theCourt does not find it appropriate to resolve at this time the factualdispute of whether Mr. Szollosy "operated" the jet ski, as there has notbeen sufficient evidence presented to the Court on this issue.Accordingly, as noted above, the instant decision is based on thealleged facts contained in the third-party complaint.

Case Summary:
To generate a summary for SZOLLOSY v. HYATT CORP. click here.
Back to top