United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
FREDERICK T. GARDINER, JR., Plaintiff,
M/V RAMZABAR and MICHAEL P. ARCIDI, Defendants.
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
A. O'Toole, Jr. United States District Judge.
matter was tried to the Court sitting without a jury. Upon
consideration of the evidence and the arguments of the
parties, I make the following findings of fact and
conclusions of law, pursuant to Rule 52 of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure:
Findings of Fact
RAMZABAR (“the vessel”) is a federally documented
1978 31-foot Bertram sport fishing boat, Official Number
662443. Frederick Gardiner purchased the vessel in 1996, and
has remained the only federally registered owner of the
vessel since that time. From the late 1990s until 2004, the
vessel was regularly kept on a mooring in the water adjacent
to the property of Mrs. Trudy Cutler, with her permission.
Mrs. Cutler was Gardiner's former mother-in-law, with
whom he seemed to share an amiable familial relationship.
Brian Macourt, Gardiner's nephew, was given unlimited
permission to use the vessel provided that he kept up its
necessary maintenance. Macourt used the vessel regularly
until 2004. Gardiner and Macourt also enjoyed an amiable
familial relationship during this time.
in 2004, the vessel was removed from the water and stored on
Mrs. Cutler's property. From 2004 until 2013, the vessel
was stored either on the property of Mrs. Cutler or, at
times, on Macourt's property. I find that Macourt was a
permissive user with whom Gardiner entrusted the vessel. The
evidence did not support a finding that there was a business
or contractual agreement between Gardiner and Macourt
pursuant to which Gardiner agreed to pay either Mrs. Cutler
or Macourt for storage or maintenance of the vessel.
Specifically, I find that Mrs. Cutler allowed Gardiner to
store the vessel on her property without expectation of
compensation. I do not credit the assertion that Macourt
expected to receive $35, 000, or any other sum, from Gardiner
in exchange for storage as alleged in the counterclaim.
Additionally, there was no specific evidence of any
particular goods, services, or necessaries advanced by
Macourt for which he reasonably expected reimbursement from
point between 2010 and 2013, Macourt decided that he no
longer wished to store the boat on either his or Mrs.
Cutler's property. The evidence is unclear as to the
extent this decision was communicated to Gardiner. Macourt
decided to try to sell the boat.
18, 2013, Sean Thibert paid Macourt $2, 000 in exchange for
whatever interest Macourt had in the vessel. Thibert
specifically understood at the time of sale that Macourt did
not hold title to the vessel and that it was legally owned by
Gardiner. In July 2013, Thibert attempted without success to
have the vessel deemed “abandoned” under state
law so that he could obtain a valid title to it. To comply
with state statutory procedure for obtaining title to an
abandoned boat, he ran a required notice in the local
point thereafter, Gardiner sought out Thibert in response to
the newspaper ad and asserted his legal ownership of the
vessel. During this meeting, Thibert showed Gardiner a copy
of a letter from Macourt's attorney dated March 28, 2011,
which purported to have been sent by certified mail to
Gardiner making demand for $11, 000 on behalf of Macourt for
unspecified costs incurred in connection with the
latter's purported storage of the vessel. This certified
letter was never signed for by Gardiner, and there is no
evidence as to whether Gardiner actually received the letter
or read its contents before the meeting with Thibert in 2013.
However, I do find that at the time the letter was sent,
Gardiner was aware that Macourt was seeking to have the
vessel removed and was claiming to be owed some amount for
costs related to its storage.
evidence is unclear as to whether Gardiner attempted to
remove the vessel from Thibert's property after the 2013
meeting. In any event, Gardiner did not in fact remove the
vessel and it remained in Thibert's possession until
2016. At some point in 2016, Thibert listed the boat for sale
on Craigslist.com. He specifically noted that there was an
issue with respect to his not having title to the vessel.
April 11, 2016, Michael Arcidi paid Thibert $3, 000 for
whatever interest Thibert had in the vessel. It is undisputed
that Arcidi knew that Thibert was not the owner of legal
title to the vessel. Arcidi registered the vessel in his home
state of New Hampshire, where proof of title was not
2016, Arcidi was in possession of the vessel and preformed
extensive repairs that greatly improved its condition. Arcidi
admittedly did not rely on the credit of the vessel in
preforming this work. The evidence did not indicate the value
of any improvements made to the vessel by Arcidi.
16, 2016, Arcidi was informed that his application to
register the vessel with the Coast Guard and was denied
because of Gardiner's conflicting affidavit of ownership.
Conclusions of Law
initiated the present action, asking the Court to declare him
the sole owner of the vessel and grant damages for
conversion. Arcidi counterclaimed, asserting that he is
entitled to possession of the vessel because he was granted
ownership by Thibert. Additionally, he asserted counterclaims
for maritime liens accruing from the ...