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Credle v. Smith & Smith, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 6, 2013

HAZEL CREDLE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SMITH AND SMITH, INC., as owners of the F/V LADY MARY, Defendant

For Plaintiffs: Lewis B. April, Esq., COOPER, LEVENSON, APRIL, NIEDELMAN & WAGENHEIM, PA, Atlantic City, New Jersey; Brian Keane, Esq., THE KAPLAN/BOND GROUP, Boston, Massachusetts.

For Defendant: Simon Harter, Esq., LAW OFFICES OF SIMON HARTER, ESQ., Princeton, New Jersey; Stevenson L. Weeks, Esq., WHEATLY, WHEATLY, WEEKS, LUPTON & MASSIE, PA, Beaufort, North Carolina.

Page 597

ORDER GRANTING MOTION IN LIMINE (Dkt. No. 22)

HONORABLE Joseph E. Irenas, Senior United States District Judge.

This matter having come before the Court upon Defendant's Motion in Limine (dkt. no. 22), the Court having considered the Defendant's submission, and it appearing that:

(1) This suit arises out of the sinking of the F/V LADY MARY, a scallop boat that sank approximately sixty-five miles off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey on March 24, 2009.[1] (Am. Compl. ¶ 8; Def. Br. at 1.) The Plaintiffs allege that they are the personal representatives of the four deceased crewmembers of the F/V LADY MARY. (Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 1-4.) The parties dispute the cause of the sinking. ( Compare Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 12-16 with Ans. to Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 12-16.) In the aftermath of the sinking, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) prepared a Marine Accident Brief. (Defs. Ex. B3; Defs. Ex. A.)
(2) The NTSB Marine Accident Brief summarized the circumstances of the F/V LADY MARY's sinking, describing the investigation of the sinking, the history of the vessel, conditions on the day of the sinking, the probable cause of the incident, and a safety recommendation based upon the results of the report. (Defs. Ex. B3.) The report was adopted on May 2, 2011. ( Id. at 15.)
(3) On July 25, 2013, the Plaintiffs' expert, Robert H. Hazleton, was deposed. (Defs. Ex. D.) At his deposition, Hazleton was questioned about the contents of his expert report, dated May 31, 2013. (Defs. Ex. B at 1.) Under questioning, Hazleton explained that a number of his specific findings of fact and conclusions were based on information contained in the NTSB's Marine Accident Brief. ( See Defs. Ex. D.) Specifically, the following

Page 598

findings of fact were based on the NTSB report: 4, 5-12, 15-16, 21, 24, 27, and 30; and the following conclusions were based on the NTSB report: 1a-1b, 3-5, 6a-6c (including 6c subparagraphs i-iii), and 7a. ( Id. at 22-90.)
(4) On September 13, 2013, the Defendants filed the instant Motion, seeking to preclude the introduction of any evidence that the NTSB issued its Marine Accident Brief on May 2, 2011, or any of the opinions and conclusions set forth in the Marine Accident Brief. (Defs. Br. at 2.)
(5) 46 U.S.C. § 6301 authorizes the immediate investigation of marine casualties to determine, among other things, the causes of casualties, whether an act of misconduct or negligence occurred, whether violations of law occurred, and whether there is a need for new laws or regulations, or amendment or appeal of existing laws or regulations, " to prevent the recurrence of the casualty." The findings and conclusions of such investigations are not admissible in any civil or administrative proceeding. Specifically:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no part of a report of a marine casualty investigation conducted under section 6301 of this title, including findings of fact, opinions, recommendations, deliberations, or conclusions, shall be admissible as evidence or subject to discovery in any civil or administrative ...

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