Louisiana Record

Friday, December 13, 2019

Federal judge upholds $14 million judgment in 2015 collision on the Mississippi


By Karen Kidd | Oct 30, 2018

Cargo ship 09

NEW ORLEANS — Owners of a carrier involved in a collision on the Mississippi River in 2015 will not be required to fund a settlement reached with some underwriters in the more than $14 million judgment handed down by a federal judge last summer.

U.S. District Court Judge Jay C. Zainey, on the bench in Louisiana's Eastern District, declined to reconsider whether some repair costs should not be reduced from an earlier decision, according to his nine-page order issued Oct. 18.

In August, Zainey awarded more than $10 million in damages to the owner of the  shipping terminal and dock damaged during the collision.

Zainey handed down his more recent order in response to a motion for modification and/or reconsideration of the court's earlier finding and a motion for limited recovery.

The motion for modification was filed by Ergon – St. James, Ergon Refining, and Magnolia Transport Co. and their underwriters, all referred to as "Ergon" in Zainey's order. The motion for limited recovery was filed by Privocean Shipping. and Bariba Corp., owners of the Greek bulk carrier Privocean.

Zainey denied both motions.

The case stems from an incident in April 2015 when the Privocean broke free of its mooring at Convent Marine Terminal, drifted across the Mississippi River and collided with the tanker Bravo, according to the National Transportation Safety Board's brief on the incident. The Bravo then was then moored in the Ergon-St. James Terminal.

The 98-foot towing vessel Texas, then attempting to assist the Privocean, became pinned between the carrier and the tanker as those two ships collided. Four members of the Texas' crew suffered minor injuries, about 10 barrels of oil spilled into the river and an estimated $11 million in damage was sustained by the vessels, the dock at the terminal and deck equipment on three other tugboats, according to the NTSB brief.

"Ergon moves the court to reconsider its determination that Ergon's recovery should be reduced by $1,856,926," Zainey said in his order. "This is the amount of damages that the Court attributed to Ergon's negligence in pushing the Bravo completely over MD-4 at the lower end of the Ergon ship dock."

Ergon had argued "that it was inconsistent" for the court to have found the Privocean and its owners liable for the lower ship dock's destruction while also finding Ergon responsible for the Bravo's damages. For their part, the owners of the Privocean said the judgment should not be reduced and would instead pay the unreduced award.

"In light of Ergon's and the non-settling underwriters' objection to the 45.5 percent reduction, the court will enter a final judgment against Privocean in the amount of $12,436,630.60 in favor of Ergon and all of its underwriters," Zainey wrote in his order. "The Court will likewise issue a judgment in favor of Privocean and against Ergon in the amount of $1,856,926 for the damage to the Bravo. Privocean will not be required to fund the settlement that it had reached with the settling underwriters."

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