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Ardente v. Brunswick Corp.

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

November 5, 2014

EVAN ARDENTE, Plaintiff,
v.
BRUNSWICK CORPORATION d/b/a SEA RAY, Defendant

For Evan Ardente, Plaintiff: Kurt T. Kalberer, II, LEAD ATTORNEY, Darrow Everett, LLP, Providence, RI.

For Brunswick Corporation, doing business as Sea Ray, Defendant: George E. Lieberman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Vetter and White, Providence, RI; Caroline Plater, PRO HAC VICE, Reed Smith LLP, Chicago, IL.

Page 194

OPINION AND ORDER

William E. Smith, Chief United States District Judge.

Defendant Brunswick Corporation (" Defendant" ) moves to dismiss Plaintiff Evan Ardente's (" Plaintiff" ) Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (See Def.'s Mot. Dismiss (" Def.'s Mot." ), ECF No. 10.) Defendant argues that admiralty law applies and precludes Plaintiff's claims. For the reasons that follow, the motion is DENIED.

I. Background[1]

In 1999, Plaintiff purchased a 1997 580 Super Sun Sport Sea Ray yacht (" yacht" ) from its original owner. In November of 2009, Plaintiff discovered that the yacht had sustained water damage in both its hull and deck. Plaintiff claims that this damage renders the yacht " unreasonably dangerous." (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 17, ECF No. 1.)

Plaintiff, a Rhode Island domiciliary, has brought an action against Defendant, a Delaware corporation, invoking diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiff asserts multiple claims for negligence and strict liability under Rhode Island law, as well as a claim for violation of Rhode Island's Uniform Trade Practice and Consumer Protection Act, see R.I. Gen. Laws § § 6-13.1-1 to 6-13.1-29. He alleges that the damage to the yacht's hull and deck was caused by defective composite manufacturing techniques -- specifically, the use of balsa wood core material -- that were used by Defendant during the construction of the yacht. According to Plaintiff, use of a solid composite laminate in place of the balsa core would have eliminated the defect. As a result, Plaintiff is unable to use the yacht in its intended manner, as a " high-speed offshore recreational vessel." (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 12.)

In its motion, Defendant argues that it is clear from Plaintiff's Complaint that admiralty law applies to this action. Application of admiralty law precludes Plaintiff's claims, the argument goes, because Plaintiff seeks purely economic damages that are not recoverable in tort under admiralty law. Defendant asserts that the claims are more appropriately grounded in contract or warranty, but that the statute of limitations applicable to such actions has expired.

II. Legal Standard

In ruling on a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, taking all well-pled factual allegations as true and giving the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences. See Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669 F.3d 50, 55-56 (1st Cir. 2012).

Page 195

III. Discussion

In its Motion to Dismiss, Defendant challenges neither Plaintiff's assertion that diversity jurisdiction exists nor the sufficiency of Plaintiff's allegations under Rhode Island law. Rather, Defendant's challenge to Plaintiff's Complaint is more nuanced: it argues that, notwithstanding Plaintiff's characterization of his claims as ...


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