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Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Vacatur of Maritime Attachment for Failure to State a Prima Facie Breach of Contract or Unjust Enrichment Claim

In Equatorial Marine Fuel Management Services Pte Ltd. v. MISC Berhad, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision to vacate a maritime attachment for Plaintiff-Appellant's failure to state a prima facie admiralty claim. Docket No. 08-57046 (9th Cir. Jan. 11, 2010).

Plaintiff-Appellant, Equatorial Marine, was a supplier of marine fuel that delivered over $22 million worth of bunker fuel for vessels owned and operated by Defendant-Appellee MISC. Equatorial was never paid for the bunkers and commenced a Rule B action against MISC, alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Pursuant to the maritime attachment Order, Equatorial attached a vessel owned by MISC that could be found in the district. MISC subsequently moved to vacate the attachment for failure to state a prima facieadmiralty claim, arguing that it had contracted with a non-party bunker-trader, not with Equatorial, and that it had paid the bunker-trader for all the bunkers it received.

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the supply of bunkers to a vessel was "clearly maritime in nature."  Notwithstanding, the Court held that the district court had properly vacated the attachment because Equatorial failed to show it had a valid prima facie breach of contract or unjust enrichment claim against MISC. The evidence presented to the Court by MISC established that MISC had contracted only with the non-party bunker-trader and that there was no evidence that MISC was even aware that Equatorial was the bunker supplier. Accordingly, the Court found that Equatorial had failed to show it had a contract with MISC. Similarly, the Court rejected Equatorial's unjust enrichment claims, as MISC had presented un-rebutted evidence that it had paid the bunker-trader for the bunkers. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's vacatur of the attachment.

Read a copy of the Ninth Circuit's decision

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