This Never Would Have Happened On The Nina, Pinta, Or Santa Maria.

by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher) (LinkedIn)

Columbus boats (pd)

If the name of your company is Christopher Columbus, LLC then it is probably reasonable for you to expect that you will be subject to the maritime jurisdiction of the federal courts. Nonetheless, this was the issue presented in a recent Third Circuit decision, In The Matter Of The Complaint Of Christopher Columbus, LLC (t/a Ben Franklin Yacht), As Owner Of The Vessel Ben Franklin Yacht, For Exoneration From Or Limitation Of Liability.

The case involved a "drunken brawl which erupted among passengers who were enjoying a cruise on the Delaware River onboard the vessel Ben Franklin Yacht." Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that they were assaulted by other passengers on the vessel while the boat was docking, and at least one alleged that the assault continued in the parking lot near the dock. They alleged that the boats crew members caused their injuries by "providing inadequate security and overserving alcohol to passengers." Plaintiffs sued in state court, and Defendant responded by filing a "limitation action" in federal court. (A "limitation action" is a unique wrinkle in maritime law that allows the "owner of a vessel" to limit its liability to "an amount equal to the value of the owner's interest in the vessel and pending freight.") Both sides then moved for summary judgment. But, while these motions were pending, the district court, sua sponte, invited briefing on whether the court had jurisdiction. After briefing and oral argument, the district court found that maritime jurisdiction was lacking and, therefore, dismissed defendant's limitation action.

Defendant appealed. This is where, I think, it gets interesting, at least for someone who does not generally practice maritime law. (Although I did write about a different case not too long ago, which is actually cited in the Christopher Columbus case, so maybe I am developing a niche.) 

Continue reading “This Never Would Have Happened On The Nina, Pinta, Or Santa Maria.”

Four Residential Mortgage Lenders May Resume Uncontested Foreclosures: Will Long Processing Backlogs Return?

by:  Michael L. Rich

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ordered that four of New Jersey's six largest mortgage servicers may resume uncontested residential foreclosures after apparently demonstrating they have taken adequate steps to remedy improper "robo-signing" and other questionable practices.  Specifically, the Court’s directive permits Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase Bank and Wells Fargo to resume uncontested residential foreclosures which had been effectively halted since December 2010.  Retired Appellate Division Judge Richard Williams, serving as Special Master, reported that these four institutions had made a prima facie showing that they implemented new processes to redress the problems previously identified.  His Report led to the Court’s recent ruling.

These four mortgage servicers, together with several other big banks, account for a large percentage of New Jersey's residential foreclosures.  Thus, the approximate 7-month hiatus occasioned by the Court’s prior halting of uncontested foreclosures by these servicers afforded an opportunity for New Jersey’s Office of Foreclosure to make some significant strides in reducing the long backlogs that been occurring due to the unprecedented level of residential foreclosure filings – particularly as concerns speeding up the processing of larger commercial foreclosures.  However, with the temporary halting lifted, at least as to the four major banks, it is altogether likely that the backlog in processing final foreclosure judgment applications through the Office of Foreclosure is likely to return  and perhaps even worsen over the coming months.