US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Opinions
Kenai Ironclad v. CP Marine Services
Opinion Date: October 17, 2023
Judge: John W. deGravelles
Areas of Law: Business Law, Contracts, Personal Injury
Kenai Ironclad Corporation (“Kenai” or “Plaintiff”) alleged that CP Marine Services, LLC, breached its contract to repair and convert Kenai’s offshore supply vessel to a salmon fishing tender for use in Alaska. After Kenai expressed dissatisfaction with the work, the relationship deteriorated. Kenai alleged that, after paying its final invoice, it attempted to remove its vessel from CP Marine’s shipyard, but as it did so, CP Marine and codefendant Ten Mile Exchange, LLC (“TME”) (collectively, “Defendants”) rammed, wrongfully seized, detained, and converted Kenai’s vessel for five days before finally releasing it the district court found that CP Marine did not breach its contract with Kenai but did wrongfully seize, detain, and convert the vessel. The district court awarded punitive damages and attorney’s fees for Defendants’ bad faith and reckless behavior in ramming, seizing, and converting the vessel for five days. Defendants appealed.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding that Defendants wrongfully seized and converted Kenai’s vessel in bad faith and in a manner egregious enough to warrant an award of punitive damages. The court vacated the district court’s award of damages and remanded on the limited basis of clarifying the court’s award. The court found that Kenai presented sufficient evidence and testimony to support the district court’s finding that Defendants’ conduct was in bad faith, in callous disregard for the safety of the people aboard the vessels, and in reckless disregard of Kenai’s rights. Hence, the district court did not clearly err in finding facts sufficient to support an award of punitive damages.
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