Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Beckett v. Mastercraft Boat Co. (Cal. Ct. App. - February 14, 2005)

Two published opinions by Justice Gaut in one day. And both of them entirely correct (at least from my point of view) and worth at least a quick read. Not bad, Barton. Not bad at all.

The interesting thing about this case is principally that it reaches a result that I wouldn't at all have intuited: namely, that the Rio Hardy River in Baja California, Mexico (a tiny river south of Mexicali that empties into the Colorado before it ends at the Gulf of Mexico) is probably part of the "high seas" pursuant to the federal Death on the High Seas Act (and hence preempts state law remedies). I thought, naively enough, that the high seas were really the high seas. You know, as in, "the ocean". But Justice Gaut writes a short, cogent, and well-reasoned opinion that indeed disabuses me of that notion. Apparently the "high seas" includes a tiny inland river in another country. My uninformed intuition to the contrary was apparently wrong. Good to know.

It's nice to see a brief, six page (double spaced!) opinion that does everything that an opinion should do. Not too long, not too short. Just right for the case at hand. Admittedly, I feel sorry for the Becketts, who lost their fifteen-year old daughter and who, as a result of the opinion, have to settle for the $100,000 they got from the boat owner and operator. But Justice Gaut convinces me that that's apparently the law; that the relevant California law doesn't extend extraterritorially, and that even if it did, it would probably be preempted.