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ARNOLD M. DIAMOND, INC. v. GULF COAST TRAILING CO.

September 11, 1997

ARNOLD M. DIAMOND, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
GULF COAST TRAILING CO., GULF COAST TRAILING CO., INC., DREDGE OUACHITA and DREDGE MERMENTAU, Defendants. GULF COAST TRAILING CO., Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff, v. TWIN CITY SHIPYARD, COLLINS ELECTRICAL INC. and THE REXROTH CORPORATION, Third-Party Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BROWN

 BROWN, District Judge

 This matter comes before the Court on: (1) the motions of Gulf Coast Trailing, Co., Collins Electrical, Inc., and The Rexroth Corporation for summary judgment pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56; (2) the cross-motion of Twin City Shipyard for summary judgment pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56; and (3) the motion of plaintiff Arnold M. Diamond Inc. to amend its complaint pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 15. For the reasons set forth in this Memorandum Opinion, the Court will: (1) grant defendants Gulf Coast Trailing, Co. and Collins Electrical, Inc.'s motions for summary judgment; (2) deny The Rexroth Corporation's motion for summary judgment as moot; (3) grant defendant Twin City Shipyard's cross-motion for summary judgment; and (4) deny as moot plaintiff Arnold M. Diamond Inc.'s motion to amend its complaint.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff Arnold M. Diamond, Inc. (hereinafter "Diamond") is a privately-owned construction company. From 1985 to 1987, Diamond was acting as a general contractor performing under contract with the United States Navy to undertake certain improvements to Pier No. 2 and its appurtenances located at the United States Naval Station in Earle, New Jersey (hereinafter "the pier"). The work was to include the installation of new rubber fenders along the sides of the existing pier as well as the construction of several new mooring platforms which were to extend the length of the pier. Pursuant to a contract with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, defendant Gulf Coast Trailing Co. (hereinafter "Gulf Coast") was responsible for conducting dredging operations in and around the pier and the mooring platforms.

 At 12:15 a.m. on March 16, 1986, the dredge Mermentau, owned and operated by Gulf Coast, allided *fn1" with the east side of the pier. The Mermentau is a self-propelled suction dredge of 197 feet in overall length which was performing dredging operations in accordance with Gulf Coast's contract with the Army Corps of Engineers. The starboard bow of the Mermentau collided with the scaffolding which extended six to ten feet out from the pier into the channel and an "A" fender (bumper) bolted to the pier. Later that same day, at 9:35 a.m., another Gulf Coast dredge, the Ouachita, collided with Mooring Platform B, an appurtenance extending from the pier's west side. The Ouachita's port side collided with some construction materials attached to the pier.

 In December 1986, Gulf Coast brought an action against Twin City Shipyard and Collins Electrical Inc. in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. That action sought indemnity and/or contribution for any potential liability that might be assessed against Gulf Coast from the allisions involving the dredge Ouachita and the pier. *fn2" On or about November 30, 1987, that action, Gulf Coast Trailing Co. v. Twin City Shipyard and Collins Electrical, Inc., Civ. No. 87-4914(GEB), was transferred to this Court. On January 22, 1988, the parties voluntarily stipulated to dismiss the action without prejudice. On or about March 10, 1988, Arnold M. Diamond, Inc. v. Gulf Coast Trailing Co, et al., Civ No. 88-1219(AET), was filed in this Court in which Diamond sought recovery for the damages it allegedly incurred due to the two separate allisions involving the dredges Ouachita and Mermentau. On July 18, 1988, the parties to Gulf Coast Trailing Co. v. Twin City Shipyard and Collins Electrical, Inc., Civ. No. 87-4914(GEB), stipulated to reinstate the action as an active matter and consolidate it with Arnold M. Diamond, Inc. v. Gulf Coast Trailing Co, et al., Civ No. 88-1219(AET) under case number 87-4914(GEB). On January 31, 1989, a consent order was entered by this Court staying the above-captioned matter pending the resolution of the bankruptcy proceedings of Perth Amboy Iron Works, Inc. The action remained stayed until January 25, 1996, when this Court entered an Order reinstating the matter. On July 8, 1997, a consent order was entered by this Court dismissing all claims, cross-claims and counterclaims by and against defendant Rexroth Corporation. *fn3"

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. STANDARDS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

 Summary judgment may be granted only if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). In a summary judgment motion, the non-moving party receives the benefit of all reasonable doubts and any inferences drawn from the underlying facts. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). If the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial as to a dispositive issue, Rule 56(e) requires him to go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Schoch v. First Fidelity Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990). Issues of material fact are genuine only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). *fn4"

 Defendants contend that the Robins Dry Dock5 doctrine prohibits plaintiff from recovering damages from Gulf Coast. *fn6" In Robins, a time charterer of a vessel sued for profits lost when the defendant dry dock negligently damaged the vessel's propeller. The propeller had to be replaced, thus extending by two weeks the time the vessel was laid up in dry dock, and it was for the loss of the use of the vessel for that period that the charterer sued. In denying recovery, Justice Holmes noted that:

 Robins Dry Dock, 275 U.S. 303 at 309. The Court found that the time charterer had no property interest in the vessel, and that, unlike a demise charterer, the time charterer did not even have "possession" of the vessel. Id. at 308. Consequently, the Court held that if the claimants had a legally protected interest in the nonnegligent repair of the vessel's propeller, "it must be worked out through their contract relations with the owners." Id.

 Many courts have read Robins Dry Dock to establish a bright line against recovery for economic loss caused by an unintentional maritime tort absent physical damage to property. See, e.g., Getty Refining & Mktg. Co. v. MT FADI B, 766 F.2d 829 (3d Cir. 1985); Louisiana v. M/V Testbank, 752 F.2d 1019 (5th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 477 U.S. 903, 91 L. Ed. 2d 562, 106 S. Ct. 3271 (1986); Holt Hauling & Warehousing Sys., Inc. v. M/V Ming Joy, 614 F. Supp. 890, 896 (E.D. Pa. 1985) ("The standard formulation of the Robins Dry Dock rule is that 'physical damage to a proprietary interest [is] a prerequisite to recovery for economic loss in cases of unintentional maritime tort.'"). The Robins Dry Dock rule has been most commonly applied where a facility used for commerce or transportation has been negligently damaged, thereby harming all those who would have used the facility during the time it undergoes repair. See, e.g., Getty Refining, 766 F.2d 829. Adjudicating economic loss claims in these types of cases would require expensive and duplicative litigation after every collision involving a frequently used facility. The Robins Dry Dock doctrine serves to limit the pool of potential plaintiffs to those with the strongest interests in the "thing damaged." See IMTT-Gretna v. Robert E. Lee SS, 993 F.2d 1193, 1194 (5th Cir. 1993) (noting that this policy was adopted in order to prevent numerous claims of economic damage from parties the tortfeasor did not know he owed any duty to), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1072 (1994). Consequently, the Robins Dry Dock doctrine discards "traditional tort precepts of ...


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