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St. Louis Bar Journal:  In December 2016, The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis published an issue of their St. Louis Bar Journal dedicated to admiralty law. Partner Jim Mondl and Associate Shannon Oberkrom contributed an article titled The Legal Liabilities Marinas Face to this edition. The essay outlines pertinent state and federal laws that govern marinas and recreational boating, and describes how liability claims can be avoided.

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2016 BAMSL Maritime Law Seminar: As Chair of the Admiralty Law Committee of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, Jim Mondl organized the 2016 Maritime Law Seminar, which took place on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, in St. Louis. The seminar brought together river operators, maritime attorneys, claims adjusters and insurance brokers. In addition to organizing the seminar, Jim Mondl served as the moderator of the event. Partner Rich McNelley spoke on the topic of Responding to Allisions: Potential Liability, Claims Response, and Coast Guard Investigation. Other speakers discussed discovery disputes over production/disclosure of materials, and indemnity agreements and additional insureds. Tonkin & Mondl was also a sponsor for the cocktail reception the evening before the seminar, on Tuesday, September 13 at the Rooftop Bar St. Louis. 

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Summary Judgment in Insurance Coverage Case: On January 26, 2016, the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment for the firm’s client, which had sought declaratory judgment on insurance coverage. The case arose from a fatality that occurred on August 24, 2012, when a marina employee brought decedent and others on a brief boat ride on the Chicago River. After returning from the boat ride, the decedent disembarked, then fell into the river and drowned. The marina’s insurer denied insurance coverage for that fatality, and we initiated a declaratory judgment action, asking a federal court in Northern Illinois to confirm that our client’s policy insuring the marina’s boat provides no coverage for that accident. Judge Thomas M. Durkin (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division) concluded that allegations in the wrongful death suit related to the “unsafe dock” and not the “use” or “maintenance” of the boat itself. Accordingly, the death was outside of the scope of the insurance policy, and the insurer was absolved of its duty to defend or indemnify the insured. Markel American Ins. Co. v. Vantage Yacht Club, LLC., case number 1:14-cv-07360. The insured has appealed.  

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Summary Judgment in Jones Act Case: On January 12, 2016, a federal court granted summary judgment for our firm’s clients on a Jones Act suit in which the plaintiff, a harbor boat pilot, claimed he hurt his back when he slipped and fell on a dock helping remove cement blocks that had been used as ballast for the boat. He underwent surgery, and sued his employer and the dock owner.

On April 9, 2013, harbor boat pilot Rigsby claims that he picked up a large cement block from the deck of a crane barge, intending to move it several feet. He testified that his leg went out from under him while walking on the crane barge, but he did not know how or why he fell, and could cite to nothing wrong with the barge or the operation he and his crew were performing. As the captain, he acknowledged that he was responsible for making sure the operation was conducted safely, and he would have taken other precautions had he believed any part of the operation was unsafe.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois granted summary judgment for both defendants, holding that Rigsby failed to prove unseaworthiness of a vessel or negligence by either defendant. Rigsby v. Shawneetown Harbor Service, et al., No. 14-0676 (S.D. Ill. Jan. 12. 2016).