Fifth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Claim Against U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Alleged Failure to Advise of Known Hazards
On July 20, 2011, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's dismissal of a claim by the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans for its alleged failure to advise of a known shoaling hazard learned from surveys of the Mississippi River in waters off of the Napoleon Avenue Wharf in New Orleans.
This case arises out of damage sustained in June 2008, by the M/V MSC TURCHIA, when it grounded while approaching the Napoleon Avenue Wharf in the Port of New Orleans. A few days before the ship grounded, the Corps had conducted a survey of the area. The survey data was made available via the Corps website and by mailing a paper copy to the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans. The Corps were also available to respond to any specific questions regarding the survey over the telephone. Nevertheless, the Board brought suit alleging that the Corps failed to appropriately provide warning about the navigation hazard. Specifically, the Board further contended that the Corps was negligent in failing to immediately call the Board when it knew about shoaling and knew it would be problematic.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Eastern District Court of Louisiana finding that the Corps exercised due care in the manner it distributed its survey information. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals also stated that an immediate phone call to warn of shoaling was an unreasonable expectation, as the Corps had no knowledge of when particular vessels with particular depth requirements planed on docking at the wharfs.
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