Orion Marine Construction, Inc. v. Dawson, No. 17-11961 (11th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Orion filed a limitation action under the Shipowner's Limitation of Liability Act. Claimants moved to dismiss the action, arguing that Orion had received adequate notice of the claims against it more than six months before it filed, that the action was therefore time-barred, and thus the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.
The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of claimants' motion to dismiss. The court held that the Act's section 30511(a)'s six-month filing deadline does not erect a jurisdictional barrier to suit. Rather, section 30211(a)'s six-month filing deadline is a non-jurisdictional claim process rule. The court also held that, in order to trigger the six-month filing period, a claimant (not someone else) must provide the shipowner or its agent (not someone else) with written (not oral) notice that reveals a reasonable possibility that his claim will exceed the value of the vessel(s) at issue. Furthermore, a shipowner does not incur a duty to investigate known or potential claims immediately upon receipt of a claimant's notice, and the duty to investigate arises only if the notice reveals the required "reasonable possibility." Finally, the court held that Orion did not receive the statutorily required written notice—revealing a reasonable possibility of claims that would exceed the value of its barges—more than six months before it filed its limitation action. Therefore, Orion's suit was timely filed.