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In re Tranter

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

January 23, 2018

IN RE TAMMY TRANTER, AS OWNER OF THE MOTOR VESSEL ''SOUTHERN VORTEX, '' A 47 FOOT 2004 FORMULA THUNDERBIRD BEARING HULL IDENTIFICATION NUMBER TNRD2634A304
v.
UNKNOWN DEFENDANT, Defendant. TAMMY TRANTER, AS OWNER OF THE MOTOR VESSEL ''SOUTHERN VORTEX, '' A 47 FOOT 2004 FORMULA THUNDERBIRD BEARING HULL IDENTIFICATION NUMBER TNRD2634A304, Her Engines, Tackle, Apparel and Appurtenances, Plaintiff,

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION[1]

          MAC R. MCCOY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Entry of Default and Default Final Judgment (Doc. 13) filed on May 15, 2017. Plaintiff seeks the entry of:

[A] Default and Default Final Judgment against ST Snook Bight Marina, LLC, Mouser Engineering, LLC, David Denise and all persons and entities who have failed to file Claims or Answers to the Verified Complaint exonerating Plaintiff from any liability and barring the filing of any further claims or answers in these proceedings or in any other proceedings related to or arising out of event described in the Verified Complaint.

(Doc. 13 at 6). For the reasons discussed herein, the Undersigned recommends that Plaintiff's Motion be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE IN PART.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 30501, et seq. and Supplemental Rule F, Fed.R.Civ.P. (SeeDoc. 5). The Amended Verified Complaint alleges that a fire occurred aboard Plaintiff's vessel, a Formula motor vessel named “Southern Vortex” which bears hull identification number TNRD2634A304 on August 10, 2016. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-8). The fire allegedly occurred while the vessel was moored on navigable waters at Snook Bight Marina, 4765 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, Florida, destroying the vessel and causing damage to the marina's dock and to several nearby vessels. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-10). According to the Amended Verified Complaint, Plaintiff was not aboard the vessel at the time of the fire. (Id. at ¶ 9).

         Plaintiff seeks exoneration from or limitation of liability for all losses, injuries, and damages alleged to have been sustained as result of the incident that occurred on August 10, 2016. In seeking this relief, on March 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Approve Ad Interim Stipulation and to Enter Monition and Injunction (Doc. 8). On March 21, 2017, the Court entered an Order Approving Ad Interim Stipulation of Value, Directing Issuance of Monition and Injunction. (Doc. 10). A Monition (Doc. 11) was entered separately the same day.

         Plaintiff then published a Notice of the Monition in The News-Press, a daily newspaper published at Fort Myers in Lee County, Florida for four straight weeks on March 31, 2017, April 7, 2017, April 14, 2017 and April 21, 2017. (Doc. 12).[2] Additionally, Plaintiff sent a copy of the Order to every known potential claimant via certified mail, including ST Snook Bight Marina, LLC, Mouser Engineering, LLC, and David Denise. (SeeDoc. 13-1; Doc. 13-2). Plaintiff contends that “no person or entity has filed a claim, answer or other paper in these proceedings and the time for doing so has passed.” (Doc. 13 at 3). Thus, Plaintiff now seeks “entry of default and to default judgment exonerating her from any liability arising out of the incident described in the Complaint.” (Id.).

         II. Legal Standards

         In actions to exonerate or limit liability from claims arising out of maritime accidents, the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure set forth strict deadlines for providing notice to potential claimants and filing claims. See In re: Ruth, No. 8:15-cv-2895-T-23TBM, 2016 WL 4708021, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 23, 2016), report and recommendation adopted sub nom. In re 37' 2000 Intrepid Powerboat, No. 8:15-cv-2895-T-23TBM, 2016 WL 4667385 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 7, 2016). Pursuant to Supplemental Rule F of these rules:

[T]he court shall issue a notice to all persons asserting claims with respect to which the complaint seeks limitation, admonishing them to file their respective claims with the clerk of the court and to serve on the attorneys for the plaintiff a copy thereof on or before a date to be named in the notice. The date so fixed shall not be less than 30 days after issuance of the notice. For cause shown, the court may enlarge the time within which claims may be filed. The notice shall be published in such newspaper or newspapers as the court may direct once a week for four successive weeks prior to the date fixed for the filing of claims. The plaintiff not later than the day of second publication shall also mail a copy of the notice to every person known to have made any claim against the vessel or the plaintiff arising out of the voyage or trip on which the claims sought to be limited arose.

Fed. R. Civ. P. Supp. R. F(4).

         After this notice has been given, all claims “shall be filed and served on or before the date specified in the notice provided for in subdivision (4) of this Rule.” Fed.R.Civ.P. Supp. R. F(5). “If a claimant desires to contest either the right to exoneration from or the right to limitation of liability, the claimant shall file and serve an answer to the complaint unless the claim has included an answer.” Id.

         III. ...


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