United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
IN RE BENJAMIN P. URBELIS FOR EXONERATION FROM AND/OR LIMITATION OF LIABILITY, CIVIL AND MARITIME
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
maritime action, Petitioner Benjamin P. Urbelis seeks
exoneration from or limitation of liability in connection
with an accident that occurred during a recreational outing
on his power boat, the M/V NAUT GUILTY (the
“Vessel”). Currently before the Court are a
number of motions concerning whether non-party Alexander
Williams, a passenger on the Vessel during the accident,
should be involved in this action and in what capacity.
Williams failed to file a claim for losses or damages before
the September 25, 2015 deadline, and a default judgment
entered against him. [ECF No. 49]. On July 21, 2017, the
Court denied Williams' motion for leave to file a late
claim. [ECF No. 111]. The now pending motions include: (1)
Williams' motion for reconsideration of the denial of his
motion for leave [ECF No. 128]; (2) claimant Chaparral Boats,
Inc.'s (“Chaparral”) motion for leave to file
a third-party complaint against Williams [ECF No. 124]; and
(3) claimant Volvo Penta of the Americas, LLC's
(“Volvo”) motion for leave to file a third-party
complaint against Williams. [ECF No. 130]. For the following
reasons, Williams' motion for reconsideration is
DENIED and Chaparral's and Volvo's
respective motions for leave to file a third-party complaint
against Williams are GRANTED.
30, 2015, Urbelis and a number of other guests, including
claimant Nicole Berthiaume and Williams, boarded the Vessel
for a recreational outing on the Boston Harbor. [ECF Nos. 1
at 1; 63 at 1]. While the Vessel was anchored off of
Spectacle Island, several of the people on the Vessel,
including Berthiaume, jumped off of the Vessel to swim.
Subsequently, someone aboard the Vessel started the engines.
[ECF No. 63 at 1]. As Berthiaume attempted to swim back to
the boat, she was injured by the engine's moving
propellers. Id. Her injuries included, among other
things, the loss of her dominant right arm below the
shoulder, and other serious lacerations. Id.
17, 2015, Urbelis filed this action seeking exoneration from
or limitation of liability for any damages or injuries
resulting from the accident pursuant to 46 U.S.C. §
30501 et seq., commonly known as the Limitation of
Liability Act (“LOLA”). [ECF No. 1]. A
court-appointed appraiser determined that the Vessel's
fair market value was $29, 000, and the value of its pending
freight was $0.00. [ECF No. 12]. On August 10, 2015, the
Court ordered the issuance of notice to all potential
claimants that they must file any claims by September 25,
2015 or be defaulted. [ECF No. 16]. The Court also enjoined
all other lawsuits, actions, or proceedings against Urbelis
pending the resolution of the LOLA action, including the
civil action that was filed by Berthiaume against Urbelis,
Williams, and other defendants in the Massachusetts Superior
Court (the “State Court Action”). [ECF No. 53-1].
Berthiaume, Chaparral, and Volvo filed timely claims and
answers to the Complaint. [ECF Nos. 20, 22, 23]. Berthiaume
claims $25, 000, 000 in damages and challenges Urbelis'
right to limitation. [ECF No. 22 at 7-8]. Chaparral (the
manufacturer of the Vessel) and Volvo (the manufacturer of
the Vessel's engines that were in use at the time of the
accident) both seek indemnification and/or contribution, from
Urbelis or others, in the event that a judgment is rendered
against them. [ECF No. 63 at 4].
October 8, 2015, a default judgment entered against all
persons that had not filed timely claims. [ECF Nos. 42, 49].
Almost one year later, on September 19, 2016, Williams filed
a motion for leave to file a late claim for contribution and
indemnity. [ECF No. 72]. The motion noted that Williams had
been named as a defendant in the State Court Action and
identified as being involved in the operation of the Vessel
during the outing on the Boston Harbor. [ECF No. 72 at 1].
Williams claimed that his filing was late because his civil
defense counsel had been “appointed . . . by the
underwriter for the [V]essel, ” and that granting leave
would not in any way prejudice the other parties. [ECF No. 72
at 1-5]. As further described below, the Court held that
Williams did not adequately explain his failure to timely
file a claim and denied the motion. [ECF No. 111].
the pendency of Williams' motion for leave to file a late
claim, on February 23, 2017, Berthiaume filed a motion for
leave to amend her claim and answer to assert crossclaims
against Williams, Chaparral, and Volvo. [ECF No. 96]. On July
21, 2017, the Court granted Berthiaume's motion with
respect to asserting crossclaims against Chaparral and Volvo
but denied the motion with respect to Williams, because he
was not a party given the denial of his motion for leave to
file a late claim. [ECF No. 112]. Berthiaume's amended
pleading included crossclaims against Chaparral and Volvo for
negligence, breach of the implied warranty of
merchantability, and products liability. [ECF No. 118 at
issue of whether Williams should participate in this action,
and in what capacity, has been raised on multiple occasions
in this case. The claimants have consistently maintained that
Williams should be involved in this litigation in one way or
another. Urbelis agrees that Williams may be liable for
damages resulting from the boating accident at issue but his
position has wavered as to how Williams should be involved in
this action. At a scheduling conference held on September 20,
2016, where counsel for Chaparral stated that if Williams
were not brought into the case, Chaparral “would
probably seek leave to implead him, because he is obviously a
critical part of this whole puzzle, ” [ECF No. 85 at
8:5-9], counsel for Urbelis acknowledged that Williams is
likely “substantially liable for the incident”
and “there [would be] no prejudice” if he were
allowed to file a late claim. Id. at
9:7-14. Moreover, when counsel for Berthiaume said
that, “assuming Berthiaume asserts crossclaims against
[Volvo] and Chaparral and Williams as part of this case, [he]
foresee[s] this as a case in which at the end the Court would
try the fault issues on those crossclaims as well and the
only thing bifurcated to go back to State Court for a jury
trial[, ] if [Berthiaume] prevails here[, ] would be damages,
” counsel for Urbelis (and Volvo) expressed agreement.
Id. at 28:17-22, 29:9-12.
the denial of Williams' motion for leave to file a late
claim, and the allowance of crossclaims against Chaparral and
Volvo, at a status conference on July 25, 2017, counsel for
Chaparral and Volvo agreed in essence that “one way or
another, [Williams] needs to be in this case.” [ECF No.
122 at 32:19-33:13]. Counsel for Berthiaume did not object to
Williams' involvement as an impleaded third party, but
counsel for Urbelis indicated that he would oppose a motion
to implead Williams because he did not want Williams in the
case since a default judgment had already been entered
against him. Id. at 34:2-13; 36:2-18. Counsel for
Williams suggested that he would file for reconsideration,
which he did on September 15, 2017. Id. at 37:1-6;
[ECF No. 128]. The fact that Williams is not currently a
party to this litigation despite the universal acknowledgment
that he may bear some responsibility has led to the filing of
the motions currently pending before the Court.
Williams' Motion for Reconsideration
seeks reconsideration of the Court's order denying his
motion for leave to file a late claim. Although he does not
clearly identify the basis for his motion, and “[t]he
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not specifically provide
for the filing of motions for reconsideration, ” such
motions are usually decided pursuant to either Fed.R.Civ.P.
59(e) or Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). Central
Produce El Jibarito v. Luna Commercial Corp., 880
F.Supp.2d 282, 284 (D.P.R. 2012) (citation omitted). A motion
is generally treated as filed pursuant to Rule 59(e) or Rule
60(b) based upon its filing date. Id. at 285 (citing
Perez-Perez v. Popular Leasing Rental, Inc., 993
F.2d 281, 284 (1st Cir. 1993)). “If a motion is served
within  days of the rendition of judgment, the motion
will ordinarily fall under Rule 59(e).” Id.
Here, Williams' motion for leave to file a late claim was
denied on July 21, 2017. [ECF No. 111]. Even assuming,
arguendo, that the order on the motion for leave to
file a late claim constituted a judgment, Williams filed the
motion for reconsideration on September 15, 2017, almost one
month after the expiration of the 28-day period. Rule 60(b)
therefore applies, although the resolution of the motion
would be the same under either rule.
Court has ‘substantial discretion and broad authority
to grant or deny' a motion for reconsideration made
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) or 60(b).”
Provanzano v. Parker View Farm, Inc., 827 F.Supp.2d
53, 57 (D. Mass. 2011) (quoting Ruiz Rivera v. Pfizer
Pharm., LLC, 521 F.3d 76, 81 (1st Cir. 2008)). As
grounds for reconsideration, Williams argues newly discovered
evidence, a manifest error of law, and the clear unjustness
resulting from the Court's order denying him leave to
file a late claim. See Ruiz Rivera, 521 F.3d at
81-82 (quoting Kansky v. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of New
England, 492 F.3d 54, 60 (1st Cir. 2007)) (“A
court may appropriately grant a motion for reconsideration
‘where the movant shows a manifest error of law or
newly discovered evidence.'”); Savini v.
Ashland, Inc., No. 11-12277, 2013 WL 5218194, at *1 (D.
Mass. Sept. 16, 2013) (quoting United States v.
Allen, 573 F.3d 42, 53 (1st Cir. 2009)) (“motions
for reconsideration are appropriate only in a ...