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Capital Yacht Club v. Aviva

September 27, 2006

CAPITAL YACHT CLUB, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VESSEL AVIVA, HER ENGINES, MASTS, ANCHORS, CABLES, CHAINS, RIGGING, TACKLE, APPAREL, FURNITURE, DINGHY, AND ALL THE NECESSARIES THEREWITH APPERTAINING, IN REM, LARRY KILSTRIP, IN PERSONAM, VIVIAN KILSTRIP, IN PERSONAM, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document No. 69

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND THE JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the plaintiff's motion to alter or amend the judgment. Invoking the court's admiralty jurisdiction, the plaintiff, Capital Yacht Club ("CYC"), brought suit against a maritime vessel called the Aviva and its owners for failure to pay dockage and related fees in relation to the in personam*fn1 defendants' boat. On June 23, 2005, pursuant to a joint motion by the parties, the court ordered the release of the in rem*fn2 property Aviva from CYC's custody. Shortly thereafter, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over this case.

On January 19, 2006, the court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, ruling that because the plaintiff explicitly released the defendant vessel from in rem custodywithout substitution of security, the court no longer had subject-mater jurisdiction to entertain this case. The plaintiff now moves the court to reconsider that decision, and asserts a new argument not raised by the plaintiff in its opposition to the defendants' motion to dismiss. These new arguments convince the court to alter its previous ruling and permit the parties to file new dispositive motions.*fn3

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

CYC is a non-profit corporation which provides storage, dockage, fuel, and other necessaries to maritime vessels. Compl. ¶ 2. The in rem defendant, the Aviva, is a 1959 55-foot Chris Craft Cruiser wooden vessel with an attached dinghy. Id. ¶ 3. In personam defendant Vivian Kilstrip owns the vessel, and in personam defendant Larry Kilstrip (hereinafter referred to as "Kilstrip") is the Master of the vessel and responsible for procuring its necessaries. Id. ¶¶ 4-5.

In November 1993, Kilstrip entered into a docking agreement with CYC. Id. ¶ 5. The agreement provided that, in exchange for dockage and various other services, Kilstrip would pay CYC a $260 monthly fee. Id. ¶ 5. As a member of CYC, according to the plaintiff, Kilstrip was subject to its bylaws, which state that members who are delinquent in their dues will eventually lose their membership and their boats will be subject to certain fees. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. Kilstrip was late in his payments for December 2002 and for January, February,*fn4 May, and June 2003. Id. ¶ 8. After Kilstrip's fifth late payment, the plaintiff terminated Kilstrip's membership and began charging Kilstrip's vessel CYC's standard dockage fee for transient vessels. Id. ¶ 10. The plaintiff alleges that it provided dockage, electrical supply and other services vital to the Aviva that constitute the provision of necessaries under maritime law. Id. ¶ 11.

B. Procedural History

The plaintiff filed its complaint on March 5, 2004, seeking immediate foreclosure of its lien on the Aviva. Id. ¶ 14(D). The plaintiff claims that it has a valid lien against the Aviva and its owner for the value of the necessaries, as well as a pendent contract claim against its Master for the same. Id. The court issued an order for arrest of the vessel on March 8, 2004, and the United States Marshal Service executed the warrant shortly thereafter. The plaintiff then moved for the appointment of substitute custodian of the Aviva so as to prevent the United States Marshal Service from incurring prohibitive costs in maintaining the Aviva and so that CYC could assume responsibility for the vessel. Mot. for Appointment of Substitute Custodian ¶¶ 3-4. On March 8, 2004, the court granted the plaintiff's motion and ordered the defendant to post a bond to the court's finance office "sufficient to cover the custodia legis fees accumulated in this case (at $68.75 per day) up to April 5, 2005 (for a total of $26,812.50)." Capital Yacht Club v. Vessel Aviva, No. 04-0357, Mem. Op. (D.D.C. May 16, 2005) at 13. The defendants tendered $26,812.50 to the court's finance office pursuant to the court's order. Capital Yacht Club, Notice (June 7, 2005).

On June 23, 2005, the parties filed a joint motion to release the Aviva from the custody of the Capital Yacht Club and into the custody of defendant Kilstrip. That same day, upon reviewing the parties' joint motion, the court ordered the release of the Aviva. Order (June 23, 2005). Both the parties' joint motion and the court's order indicate that the release of the Aviva was "without substitution of security." Id. On July 20, 2005, the defendants moved to dismiss, and on January 19, 2006, the court granted that request. The court ruled, in essence, that the plaintiff's agreement to release the defendant vessel without substitution of security constituted legal abandonment, which divested the court ...


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