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Maritime Proctor Blog

Admiralty and Maritime Law Blog

Maritime Proctor

As a practicing attorney at Chamberlain Hrdlicka in Houston, the focus of my practice is two-fold: I represent companies and individuals in civil litigation. I also do extensive work (of both a litigation and transactional nature) in the Admiralty, Maritime, and Energy fields.

I have been licensed to practice law since 2003. During that time, I've first and second chaired several trials to verdicts, as well as handled hundreds of other cases to amicable resolutions.

I'm a product of public schools, specifically Friendswood High School in Friendswood, Texas (Class of 1996), The University of Texas at Austin (BA-2000), and The University of Texas School of Law (JD-2003).

Super Lawyers named me a Rising Star and Super Lawyer in Maritime & Transportation law every year since 2011. H Texas Magazine named me a Top Lawyer in Houston every year since 2012. Houstonia Magazine named me a Top Lawyer in Houston every year since 2013.

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Lewis Black, the famous comedian, hypothesized in his 2002 comedy album “The End of the Universe” that the end of the universe was not far out in space.  Rather, it was in Houston, at the corner of West Gray and Shepherd. 

At that intersection, on the south side of West Gray was a Starbucks in a strip mall.  On the north side of West Gray is a stand-alone Starbucks.  Black even put a photo of both Starbucks on the cover of the album.

Later on, a Barnes & Noble was built on the north side of West Gray at the same intersection.  And inside the Barnes & Noble, with a view of both Starbucks was … another ...

Categories: Admiralty, Maritime Law

If you have ever sat for a deposition, it can be an extremely stressful experience, especially to someone  who has never given sworn testimony before. You are unfamiliar with the process. There is a (sometimes angry) attorney trying to get information from you.

Arbitration Contracts for Seaman – When Are They Feasible and Appropriate?

Maritime employers, particularly those who own or operate vessels, are always cognizant of the potential for lawsuits for personal injuries and wrongful death.  In the non-personal injury context, utilization of arbitration clauses is a growing trend in both commercial and employment disputes.  It is most common to see an arbitration clause in an employment agreement, signed by both parties, which ostensibly remove disputes from state or federal courts (and juries) and instead submits claims to ...

Dutra Group v. Batterton: the Supreme Court holds a Jones Act Seaman cannot recover punitive damages for unseaworthiness

Decisions where courts ultimately awarded some form of punitive or exemplary damages litter Admiralty and Maritime jurisprudence in the United States.  A question that has long vexed lower courts is: whether a Jones Act seaman can recover punitive damages for grossly unseaworthy conduct on the part of the shipowner?  As of Monday, we now have the answer to this extremely important question.

General Background

On Monday, June 24, the Supreme Court of the United ...

We continue our discussion of one of the oldest remedies available to a personal injury plaintiff – that of maintenance and cure.

Last week, we began with an overview of maintenance and cure benefits, and analyzed a new Fifth Circuit decision concerning cross-claiming defendants and whether one had to partially or totally indemnify the other for payments made of maintenance and cure, even if the injury for which the payments were made was deemed unrelated to the accident giving rise to the litigation.  In the decision of In re 4-K Marine, L.L.C.,[1] the Fifth Circuit said such was not ...

Categories: Admiralty

It’s another #MaritimeMonday, so we will continue our discussion of maintenance and cure benefits.  Two weeks ago, we analyzed a recent decision from the Fifth Circuit – In re 4-K Marine, L.L.C.,[1] after a brief overview of the nuts and bolts of a maintenance and cure claim.  Last week we discussed defenses to a claim for maintenance and cure benefits.

Today, we focus on a framework articulated by the Fifth Circuit over 30 years ago – the three-tiered damages model for maintenance and cure.  Notably, the 4-K Marine panel reaffirmed the viability of that decision, Morales v. Garijak ...

Categories: Admiralty, Maritime Law

We pause in our maintenance and cure discussion (for one day) to address a new, hot-off-the-press decision from the Supreme Court of the United States authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh: Air & Liquid Sys. Corp. v. Devries, 2019 U.S. LEXIS 2087, No. 17-110 (March 19, 2019).

 Facts & Relevant Background

In the underlying litigation, the plaintiffs (Kenneth McAfee and John DeVries) served in the U.S. Navy at various period of time – McAfee from 1977 to 1986 aboard 2 vessels, and DeVries from 1957-1960 aboard one vessel.  Each of these vessels utilized different mechanical equipment ...

This week’s blog post deals with a new soon-to-be reported decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, In re 4-K Marine, LL.C..  Citation is pending, but the case can be accessed through Lexis at 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 3095 or through the Fifth Circuit’s website, which can be found here.  The case number is 18-30348.

The primary issue before the Fifth Circuit deals with one of the oldest remedies available in Admiralty law – that of maintenance and cure owed to a seaman.  To give In re 4-K Marine proper treatment, one must have an understanding of this ancient remedy.

This decision ...

First of all, let me apologize for the lack of recent posts on this page.  

Second, I want to take this opportunity to honor Professor David W. Robertson, who sadly passed away in late December 2018.  Professor Robertson, along with Professor Michael Sturley, taught me Admiralty law.  I was also lucky that he and I  kept in touch through work on the UT Law Admiralty and Maritime Law Conference over the years.

A link to his memorial page on the webpage of the University of Texas School of Law is here:

Categories: Admiralty, Maritime Law

The focus of this post is maritime liens, which are a common commercial claim asserted against a vessel in rem, meaning the claimant sues the vessel directly. Usually this happens in Federal Court under Rule 9(h), but some states, such as Florida, allow for assertion of maritime liens in state court.

An Overview of What Constitutes a Maritime Lien

Maritime liens are both a creature of common law judicial custom and statute. Thomas Schoenbaum, a noted admiralty commentator, lists the most common maritime liens in his treatise Admiralty and Maritime Law as follows:

  1. Wages for the ship ...