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EDVA Win for Two Vandeventer Black Litigators

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In a recent Federal maritime case in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk-based litigators Richard Ottinger and Dustin Paul won a summary judgment defense verdict for their client. This is one of only a handful of opinions that has ever applied the qualified immunity doctrine to a negligence action under maritime law.

The suit alleged that a training instructor leading a tactical boating course for Virginia law enforcement officials was negligent in his instruction. While another student was at the vessel’s helm, the complaint alleged the operator improperly executed a maneuver causing the vessel to “catch a chine,” the vessel stopped abruptly, and threw the plaintiff against the vessel causing her a variety of injuries. The suit sought to hold the instructor liable for the accident.

While the training was sponsored by a non-profit boating association, the instructor was an employee of the State of Louisiana. He was participating in the training under directions from his superior at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The state was paying the instructor to lead the training, and the association was covering his lodging and food expenses.

The Court entered summary judgment in favor of the instructor on a defense of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity shields government officials from liability for discretionary actions taken as part of their official duties. The Court granted the Motion finding the instructor to be immune from suit given that he not violated a clearly established constitutional or statutory right of the plaintiff.

Richard and Dustin are part of Vandeventer Black’s Maritime and Admiralty Law Department and represent domestic and international interests in virtually all areas of marine law. The Department offers one of the most diverse ranges of maritime-related legal services in the country and has the depth and experience to handle the full spectrum of maritime legal issues that arise. The team has extensive trial experience in federal courts on the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts, as well as Virginia state courts.

See what our legal team can do for your business.

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