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York Marine, Inc. v. Intrepid

United States District Court, D. Maine

September 26, 2016

YORK MARINE, INC., Plaintiff and Counter-Defendant,
v.
M/V INTREPID, in rem, Defendant, Third-Party Plaintiff, and Counter-Claimant, and JOHN T. WILSON, in personam, Defendant, Third-Party Plaintiff, and Counter-Claimant, and MICHAEL YORK, Third-Party Defendant.

          ORDER ON YORK MARINE, INC. AND MICHAEL YORK'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JON D. LEVY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This case involves an action by York Marine, Inc. (“York Marine”) to foreclose on a maritime lien against the vessel M/V Intrepid (the “Vessel”) based on claims of breach of contract and unjust enrichment against Defendant John T. Wilson, the owner of the Vessel. ECF No. 9. York Marine provided storage, repair, and maintenance services for the Vessel, for which it contends it has not been fully paid. ECF No. 64 at 1-2. Wilson contends that York Marine is responsible for the Vessel partially sinking while on a mooring in Rockland Harbor and disputes some of the charges billed by York Marine and whether repairs to the Vessel were properly or fully performed. ECF No. 83 at 1-5. He has brought counterclaims and third-party claims against York Marine and Michael York, respectively, for negligence, breach of warranty of workmanlike performance, fraud, conversion, and violation of the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act (“UTPA”), 5 M.R.S.A. § 205-A et seq. (2016). ECF No. 14.

         In their motion for partial summary judgment, York Marine and Michael York assert that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on (1) whether Wilson has sufficient interest to bring the counterclaims and third-party claims that he asserts; (2) Wilson's claims of conversion and unfair trade practices against York Marine; and (3) Wilson's claims of negligence, conversion, and unfair trade practices against Michael York in his individual capacity. ECF No. 64. For the reasons I will explain, I grant the motion in part and deny the motion in part.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         York Marine is a shipyard in Rockland that provides construction and repair services. ECF No. 65 at 1, ¶ 1; ECF No. 84 at 1, ¶ 1. Michael York is the principal shareholder of York Marine. ECF No. 65 at 1, ¶ 2; ECF No. 84 at 1, ¶ 2. The Vessel is a motor yacht that was built by York Marine. ECF No. 65 at 2, ¶ 3; ECF No. 84 at 1, ¶ 3. Wilson owns the Vessel and uses it solely as a pleasure yacht. ECF No. 65 at 2, ¶ 4; ECF No. 84 at 1, ¶ 4.

         On June 13, 2014, the Vessel was swamped during a storm while on a mooring in Rockland Harbor and partially sank. ECF No. 65 at 2, ¶ 6; ECF No. 84 at 2, ¶ 6 and 4, ¶ 30; ECF No. 91 at 2, ¶ 30. At the time, the Vessel was insured by AIG Marine Specialty Claims (“AIG”). ECF No. 65 at 2, ¶ 5; ECF No. 84 at 1, ¶ 5. A local contractor salvaged the Vessel. ECF No. 65 at 2, ¶ 7; ECF No. 84 at 2, ¶ 7. After the casualty, Wilson tendered the claim to AIG, and AIG paid the salvor. ECF No. 65 at 2, ¶¶ 8-9; ECF No. 84 at 2, ¶¶ 8-9. York Marine asserts that AIG also paid it for stabilizing the yacht post-loss and for repairing the yacht to its pre-loss condition. ECF No. 65 at 2, ¶ 10. Wilson disputes this, asserting that the Vessel has not been restored to its pre-loss condition and that AIG has not paid York Marine to reattach the swim platform, which was torn off as part of the sinking, to properly rebuild the engine, nor to fix the core damage in the deck. ECF No. 84 at 2, ¶ 10. The parties do not dispute that AIG has paid York Marine a total of $214, 805.63. ECF No. 65 at 3, ¶ 11; ECF No. 84 at 2, ¶ 11.

         The Vessel was put back in commission after the repairs, and Wilson ran the Vessel from Rockland to Belfast and back, after which he messaged York Marine that the boat ran well. ECF No. 65 at 3, ¶¶ 13-14; ECF No. 84 at 2, ¶¶ 13-14.

         The AIG policy that Wilson purchased indemnifies Wilson for loss or damage to the Vessel, and provides:

If we make a payment under this policy and the person to or for whom payment was made either recovers or has the right to recover from another for the covered loss, we will be subrogated to that right; however, our right to recover is subordinate to the insured's right to be fully compensated.

         ECF No. 65 at 3, ¶ 15; ECF No. 84 at 2, ¶ 15. AIG's surveyor, Neil Rosen, approved the repairs and made a final inspection of the Vessel on April 17, 2015, before AIG made its final payment to York Marine. ECF No. 65 at 3, ¶¶ 16-17; ECF No. 84 at 2, ¶¶ 16-17 and 7, ¶ 60 (citing ECF No. 65-6 at 116). York Marine asserts that Rosen's final inspection was fully satisfactory. ECF No. 65 at 4, ¶ 18. However, Wilson disputes this, asserting that Rosen was told that the engine had been rebuilt, when it had not been, and that if Rosen had been told that the engine had not been rebuilt, “a fact finder may infer that he would have found the repairs unacceptable.” ECF No. 84 at 3, ¶ 18 and 7, ¶¶ 61-64. York Marine denies that Michael York told Rosen that the engine was rebuilt. ECF No. 91 at 6, ¶ 61.

         Prior to the final payment by AIG to York Marine, Wilson signed a release agreement required by AIG as a condition of making final payment under the policy. ECF No. 65 at 4, ¶ 19; ECF No. 84 at 3, ¶ 19 and 5, ¶¶ 42, 43-44. The agreement stated:

I/We hereby assign, transfer, and set over to the insurer any and all claims or causes of action of whatsoever kind and nature which I/we now have, or may hereafter have, to recover against any person or persons as the result of said occurrence and loss above described, to the extent of the payment above made; I/we agree that the insurer may enforce the same in such manner as shall be necessary or appropriate for the use and benefit of the insurer, either in its own name or in my/our name . . . .

         ECF No. 65-3 at 7. Wilson's AIG claim was subject to a $1, 850 deductible. ECF No. 84 at 9, ¶ 83; ECF No. 91 at 8, ¶ 83.

         The parties dispute many of the facts surrounding how the Vessel came to be on the mooring where it sank, why it sank, what the damage was, the extent to which repairs were made and paid for, and other events subsequent to the sinking. Wilson asserts, and York Marine denies, that during the storm and upon the request of the owner of the dock where the Vessel was kept, York Marine moved the Vessel to the mooring. ECF No. 84 at 3, ¶ 27; ECF No. 91 at 2, ¶ 27. Wilson also asserts, and York Marine denies, that the York Marine personnel who moved the Vessel failed to ensure that its bilge pumps were activated, and that if the bilge pumps had been activated, the Vessel would not have sunk. ECF No. 84 at 4, ¶¶ 28, 32; ECF No. 91 at 2, ¶¶ 28, 32. Wilson also contends that on the day of the sinking, Michael York called him, while both were on land, and told him that the Vessel's bilge pumps were activated and pumped until the batteries were discharged and that another vessel had allided with the Vessel, causing it to sink. ECF No. 84 at 4, ¶¶ 33-36. York Marine does not dispute that Michael York called Wilson and informed him of the sinking on the day of the sinking and that both were on land during the call. ECF No. 91 at 2, ¶¶ 33, 34. But it denies that Michael York told Wilson that the Vessel's bilge pumps were activated and pumped until the batteries were discharged, and it asserts that it was in a later call that Michael York told Wilson that another vessel had allided with the Vessel, causing it to sink. Id. at 2-3, ¶¶ 35, 36.

         Wilson further contends that York Marine relaunched the Vessel in August 2014 before the insurance repairs were complete and that the engine experienced a problem with the cooling system. ECF No. 84 at 5-6, ¶¶ 45-46. York Marine admits that at the time of the relaunch, several insurance-related items remained to be completed, though it qualifies that “[m]inor punch list items remained[, ]” and admits that the engine experienced a problem with the cooling system. ECF No. 91 at 4, ¶¶ 45-46.

         Wilson asserts that later in the fall of 2014, Wilson met with Michael York to discuss a list of work (the “winter work list”) to be completed once the insurance repairs were completed and that he explained that he was concerned about the remaining insurance work and wanted the Vessel's engine to be checked before York Marine began any additional work. ECF No. 84 at 6, ¶¶ 48-49. York Marine qualifies that there was no agreement that the winter work list items would be made only after the insurance items were complete and, though it admits that there was discussion of the remaining insurance work, denies that Wilson wanted the engine checked. ECF No. 91 at 4, ¶¶ 48-49. Wilson also asserts that he asked Michael York to provide a price quote for the winter work list but did not receive it, and that Michael York proceeded to complete the insurance work while beginning on the winter work list. ECF No. 84 at 6, ¶¶ 50-51, 53-54. York Marine asserts that Michael York did not provide a quote for the winter work list because Wilson never asked for one. ECF No. 91 at 4-5, ¶¶ 50-51, 53-54. Wilson asserts, and York Marine denies, that York Marine then demanded payment for work that was not authorized by Wilson. ECF No. 84 at 7, ¶ 55; ECF No. 91 at 5, ¶ 55. Wilson asserts, and York Marine denies, that once York Marine became aware that Wilson was disputing some of the invoices, York Marine submitted several other invoices for claimed non-insurance work. ECF No. 84 at 7, ¶ 56; ECF No. 91 at 5, ¶ 56.

         The parties also dispute whether, on March 19, 2015, Wilson demanded that Michael York release the Vessel so that York Marine's charges could be verified. ECF No. 84 at 7, ¶ 57; ECF No. 91 at 5, ¶ 57. The parties do not dispute that on March 20, 2015, Michael York refused to release the Vessel. ECF No. 84 at 7, ¶ 58; ECF No. 91 at 5, ¶ 58. Wilson asserts, and York Marine denies, that once Michael York finally allowed Wilson to inspect the Vessel, Wilson found that several of the items for which York Marine was charging him could not be verified and that York Marine was overcharging him for some items. ECF No. 84 at 7, ¶ 59; ECF No. 91 at 5-6, ¶ 59.

         Wilson asserts, and York Marine denies, that it will cost between $25-75, 000 to repair the damage to the Vessel's deck and that the engine is currently worth about one-third of its pre-sinking value of $30, 000. ECF No. 84 at 8, ¶¶ 70, 72; ECF No. 91 at 7, ¶¶ 70, 72. The parties also dispute Wilson's assertion that it will cost about $45, 000 to cut out, rebuild, and reinstall the Vessel's engine. ECF No. 84 at 9, ¶ 85; ECF No. 91 at 9, ¶ 85. Wilson further asserts that AIG did not pay to rebuild the engine or repair the damaged core in the deck and that AIG was not billed for and did not pay to reattach the swim platform to the Vessel's transom. ECF No. 84 at 8, ¶¶ 73-75. York Marine admits that AIG did not pay to rebuild the engine or repair the damaged core but asserts that the core is not damaged and that York Marine billed AIG to repair the swim platform, though it did not bill AIG to secure the platform in the method that Wilson specified. ECF No. 91 at 7-8, ¶¶ 73-75.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Ahmed v. Johnson, 752 F.3d 490, 495 (1st Cir. 2014). “A dispute is genuine if ‘the evidence about the fact is such that a reasonable jury could resolve the point in favor of the non-moving party.'” Johnson v. Univ. of P.R., 714 F.3d 48, 52 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Thompson v. Coca-Cola Co., 522 F.3d 168, 175 (1st Cir. 2008)). “A fact is material if it has potential to determine the outcome of the litigation.” Id. (citing Maymí v. P.R. Ports Auth., 515 F.3d 20, 25 (1st Cir. 2008)).

         The party moving for summary judgment must demonstrate an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). In determining whether this burden is met, the court must view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences in its favor. Brooks v. AIG SunAmerica Life Assur. Co., 480 F.3d 579, 586 (1st Cir. 2007). Once the moving party has made a preliminary showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists, the nonmovant must “produce specific facts, in suitable evidentiary form, to establish the presence of a trialworthy issue.” Id. (citing Clifford v. Barnhart, 449 F.3d 276, 280 (1st Cir. 2006)) (internal quotation marks and emphasis omitted); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “[A]s to any essential factual element of its claim on which the nonmovant would bear the burden of proof at trial, its failure to come forward with sufficient evidence to generate a trialworthy issue warrants summary judgment to the moving party.” In re Spigel, 260 F.3d 27, 31 (1st Cir. 2001) (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         B. Local Rule 56

         The evidence that the court may consider in deciding whether genuine issues of material fact exist for purposes of summary judgment is circumscribed by the local rules of this district. See Loc. R. 56. The moving party must first file a statement of material facts that it claims are not in dispute. See Loc. R. 56(b). Each fact must be set forth in a numbered paragraph and supported by a specific record citation. See Id. The nonmoving party must then submit a responsive “separate, short, and concise” statement of material facts in which it must “admit, deny or qualify the facts by reference to each numbered paragraph of the moving party's statement of material facts[.]” Loc. R. 56(c). The nonmovant likewise must support each denial or qualification with an appropriate record citation. See Id. The nonmoving party may also submit its own statement of additional material facts that it contends are not in dispute, each supported by a specific record citation. See Id. The movant then must respond to the nonmoving party's statement of additional facts, if any, by way of a reply statement of material facts, in which it must “admit, deny or qualify such additional facts by reference to the numbered paragraphs” of the nonmovant's statement. See Loc. R. 56(d). Again, each denial or qualification must be supported by an appropriate record citation. See id.

         Local Rule 56 directs that “[f]acts contained in a supporting or opposing statement of material facts, if supported by record citations as required by this rule, shall be deemed admitted unless properly controverted.” Loc. R. 56(f). In addition, “[t]he court may disregard any statement of fact not supported by a specific citation to record material properly considered on summary judgment” and has “no independent duty to search or consider any part of the record not specifically referenced in the parties' separate statement of facts.” Id.; see also, e.g., Borges ex rel. S.M.B.W. v. Serrano-Isern, 605 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2010); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2) (“If a party fails to properly support an ...


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