Cooper v. Meridian Yachts – Complex International Maritime Case


In this complex international admiralty case, a sea captain sustained an injury as a result of a defective food lift on a ship.  The ship owner, manager, and employer brought third-party claims against the ship designer and builder to recoup a settlement paid to the injured captain.  These third-party claims, in turn, gave rise to a remarkably complex set of procedural and contractual issues.

To very briefly summarize this lengthy opinion, the court held that the contract barred a claim by the contract’s signatories for consequential damages against the ship designer and builder.  However, third party plaintiffs who did not sign the ship-building agreement could assert claims that were “wholly independent” of the agreement.  Dutch law governed these claims because the Dutch ship builder and designer built the ship in that country, and although Dutch law’s statute of repose barred a strict liability claim, the third party plaintiffs timely asserted a general tort claim under Dutch law.  Finally, U.S. federal maritime law governed claims against the ship builder and designer’s affiliate, which is incorporated in the United States.  The court held that such claims against the American affiliate were timely.

This opinion involves a very extensive analysis of international choice of law issues in admiralty.  The reader is encouraged to review the opinion itself if interested in this area of law.

Cooper v. Meridian Yachts, Ltd., 575 F. 3d 1151 (11th Circuit 2009), available at


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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