Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Golden Pisces, Inc. v. Fred Wahl Marine Const. (9th Cir. - July 24, 2007)

Fans of the Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" -- a show which my children call "The Crab Show," and with which they are (inexplicably) enthralled -- may appreciate this case. It's about as close as the law gets to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. And involves some repairs to the F/V Golden Pisces that allegedly misaligned the propeller shaft and caused the ship to be repaired again in Dutch Harbor and, thereafter, to again break down and be towed back, ultimately causing the ship to miss the A cod fishing season.

At which point, not surprisingly, litigation commenced. The owners of the ship prevailed at trial, and moved for attorney's fees pursuant to the contract. Attorney's fees, however, proved to be even more difficult to obtain than a catch from the Bering Sea, the chief barrier being that the contract upon which the parties sued did indeed have an attorney's fee provision, but since it didn't have virtually anything else -- a description of the work to be performed, a signature of one of the parties, etc. -- it was invalid. Thus no fees, given that absent a valid written contract with an attorney fee provision, the American rule applies.

So there you have it. The remaining Wild West in the contemporary United States fails to be untouched by our modern legal system. We see all. And, unless you're pretty careful about it, we're going to make you pay your own legal fees.