The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDA WOLFSON, Magistrate Judge
Presently before the Court are Weeks Marine Inc.'s ("Weeks
Marine") Motion to Dismiss the strict liability claim asserted by
claimant South Jersey Port Corporation ("SJPC"); SJPC's
Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment; and W.H. Streit's ("Streit")
Motion for Summary Judgment. Claimants Hill International, Inc.
("Hill") and Hudson Engineers, Inc. ("Hudson"), and Third Party
Defendant Streit have joined in Weeks Marine's Motion. The Court
has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333.
For the reasons set forth below, Weeks Marine's Motion is
granted; SJPC's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment is denied; and
Streit's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and
denied in part, without prejudice.
I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Weeks Marine was awarded the contract for the construction of
the Battleship New Jersey Memorial Pier ("Memorial Pier"), which
is located adjacent to the Beckett Street Terminal along the
Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey. Claim of SJPC at ¶¶ 15, 18.
Beckett Street Terminal is owned by SJPC. Id. at ¶ 4. The
construction of Memorial Pier included a substantial amount of
pile driving, for which Weeks Marine was responsible. It
conducted the pile driving operations from April 27, 2001 through
July 9, 2001 and from August 4, 2001 through August 23, 2001.
Id. at ¶ 21.
On the morning of August 22, 2001, SJPC observed a depression
beneath a crane at one of the four berths of the Beckett Street
Terminal. Id. at ¶ 35. Efforts were made to move the crane
without success, and at approximately 4:20 p.m., a 125 foot
fissure appeared, a loud crack was heard, and the crane collapsed
over the sea wall. Id. Following the collapse, two of the
Beckett Street Terminal berths were no longer serviceable and
could no longer be used to dock vessels, or to load or unload
cargo. Id. at ¶¶ 36-37. SJPC asserts that the collapse resulted
from Weeks Marine's pile driving activities. On August 8, 2003, SJPC filed suit in New Jersey Superior Court
against (i) Weeks Marine; (ii) S.T. Hudson Engineers, Inc., the
engineers for the Memorial Pier Project; and (iii) Hill
International, Inc., the construction manager on the project, to
recover damages for the collapse of the two berths of the pier at
Beckett Street Marine Terminal. South Jersey Port Corporation v.
S.T. Hudson Engineers, Inc., Camden County Superior Court,
Docket No. L-004508-03. Subsequently, Weeks Marine filed the
instant Complaint for Exoneration from or Limitation of
Liability, pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 181 et seq., and SJPC's suit
filed in New Jersey Superior Court was stayed by this Court's
Order dated February 6, 2004. In re Weeks Marine, Inc., No.
04-494 (D.N.J. Feb. 6, 2004) (order directing issuance of notice
and restraining suits). In the instant action, SJPC has filed a
claim for the damage sustained to its pier, and cross and counter
claims have been filed by and against Hudson, Hill, the Home Port
Alliance ("HPA"), which is the owner of Memorial Pier, and
Streit, the contractor hired by SJPC to make repairs to the
Beckett Street Marine Terminal in early 2001.
On June 23, 2004, Weeks Marine filed a Motion to Dismiss Count
I of SJPC's claim. Count I asserts that Weeks Marine should be
strictly liable for its pile driving activity. The Court held
oral argument on the Motion on July 16, 2004. Based on issues
raised at argument, the Court denied Weeks Marine's Motion to
Dismiss without prejudice, and ordered that if Weeks Marine
re-filed its Motion, counsel should brief: (1) at what stage in
the proceedings the Court is able to decide this motion and upon
what record; (2) whether the Court can make a determination if
pile-driving is abnormally dangerous in general, or whether the
Court must evaluate if the pile-driving in this case was an
abnormally dangerous activity; and (3) the application of the six
factors listed in the Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 520
(1977), as adopted by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Dep't of
Env't Prot v. Ventron Corp. 94 N.J. 473, 491-92 (1983), to the facts of this case. In re Weeks Marine,
Inc., No. 04-494 (D.N.J. July 16, 2004) (order denying Motion to
Dismiss). Weeks Marine refiled its Motion on December 29, 2004.
In response to this renewed motion, SJPC filed a Cross-Motion for
On July 9, 2004, Weeks Marine filed a Third Party Complaint
against Streit, asserting that if it is determined that Weeks'
pile driving activities caused damage to the Beckett Street
Marine Terminal, Streit is partially or wholly liable for such
damage based upon Streit's pile driving in the course of
performing repairs to the Beckett Street Terminal at the
direction of SJPC and under the supervision of Hudson. Weeks
Marine Third Party Complaint at ¶¶ 8-12. Streit filed a Motion
for Summary Judgment on June 16, 2005.
Weeks Marine's Motion is before the Court as a Motion to
Dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). SJPC and Streit
have filed Motions for Summary Judgment pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Because SJPC filed an Answer on April 2, 2004, Weeks
Marine's Motion is in fact a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). See Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(h)(2). See also Doe v. Div. of Youth and Family Servs.,
148 F. Supp. 2d 462, 497 (D.N.J. 2001). The standard for
analyzing a Rule 12(c) motion is the same as the standard for a
motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Id.
(citations omitted). In evaluating a Rule 12(c) motion, the Court
is to "view the facts presented in the pleadings and the
inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party." Soc'y Hill Civic Ass'n v. Harris,
632 F.2d 1045, 1054 (3d Cir. 1980). A claim should be dismissed only
if "no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could
be proved." Turbe v. Gov't of the Virgin Islands, 938 F.2d 427,
428 (3d Cir. 1991) (citing Unger v. Nat'l Residents Matching
Program, 928 F.2d 1392, 1394-95 (3d Cir. 1991)). If, however, on a motion made pursuant
to Rule 12(c), matters outside the pleadings are presented to and
not excluded by the court, the motion is to be treated as one for
summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). See also Citisteel USA, Inc. v. General Elec. Co.,
78 Fed. Appx. 832, 834-35 (3d Cir. 2003) (unpublished decision).
Upon consideration of matters outside the pleadings, summary
judgment is appropriate when 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(c); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A genuine issue of material
fact is one that will permit a reasonable jury to return a
verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To show that a genuine issue of
material fact exists, the nonmoving party may not rest upon mere
allegations, but must present actual evidence in support thereof.
Id. at 249 (citing First Nat'l Bank of Arizona v. Cities Svc.
Co., 391 U.S. 253, 290 (1968)). In evaluating the evidence, the
Court must "view the inferences to be drawn from the underlying
facts in the light most favorable to the [nonmoving] party."
Curley v. Klem, 298 F.3d 271, 276-77 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting
Bartnicki v. Vopper, 200 F.3d 109, 114 (3d Cir. 1999)). As
discussed herein, the Court will consider matters outside the
pleadings, and will therefore conduct the analysis herein
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.
B. Existence of a Strict Liability Cause of Action
1. Admiralty Jurisdiction
District courts have exclusive jurisdiction over tort claims
arising out of pile driving activities in navigable waters
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333. Jerome B. Grubart, Inc. v. Great
Lake Dredge & Dock Co., 513 U.S. 527, 529 (1995). "With
admiralty jurisdiction comes the application of substantive admiralty law." East River S.S. Corp.
v. Transamerica Delaval, Inc., 476 U.S. 858, 864 (1986) (citing
Executive Jet Aviation, Inc. v. Cleveland, 409 U.S. 249, 255