Lozman v. The City of Riviera Beach, Florida
February 21, 2012
Case #: 11-626
649 F.3d 1259 (11th Cir. 2011)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/201010695.pdf
Admiralty: Whether a floating structure that is indefinitely moored, receives power and other utilities from shore, and is not intended to be used in maritime transportation or commerce, constitutes a “vessel” under 1 U.S.C. § 3, thus triggering federal maritime jurisdiction.
Lozman had his floating home moored to a dock located in the City of Riviera Beach, and signed a lease with the city to remain there indefinitely. The City subsequently instituted an in rem proceeding against Defendant Unnamed Gray, Two-Story Vessel Approximately Fifty-Seven Feet in Length ("Defendant") on two counts. The first count was for the tort of trespass alleging that the Defendant had remained at the City marina after the City explicitly revoked its consent. The second count was to initiate foreclosure of a maritime lien for unpaid dockage provided to Defendant. The district court concluded that it had admiralty jurisdiction over the Defendant because the Defendant was a "vessel" under 1 U.S.C. §3. It then granted a warrant for the arrest of Defendant in connection with the lien sought by the City. U.S. Marshals arrested the Defendant and towed it to Miami, Florida. Lozman filed an emergency motion to dismiss the complaint and return his residence to the city marina. The district court denied the motion and granted the city’s partial summary judgment on its trespass claim. After a bench trial, the district court determined that the trespass gave rise to nominal damages of $1 and that the Defendant owed the City approximately $3,000 under the maritime lien.
On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court explaining that its binding precedent mandated that Defendant is a “vessel.” Lozman filed a petition for a writ of certiorari and the Supreme Court granted review to resolve differences in opinion on this issue among the Eleventh Circuit and the Fifth and Seventh Circuits.