United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Lynn Winmill Chief Judge
Court has before it a second motion to dismiss and strike
filed by defendants, Bryce Hatch and Hatch Marine Enterprise,
LLC. The motion is fully briefed and at issue. For the
reasons explained below, the Court will grant the motion to
dismiss the fraud claim and strike any references to punitive
damages and claims previously dismissed. Remaining are claims
for breach of contract, and a potential claim for sanctions
if a forged signature was submitted to the Court.
were employed by defendants as deckhands aboard the F/V
Silver Bullet for the 2013 Bristol Bay (Alaska) salmon season
during the months of June and July. They allege that
defendant Hatch verbally promised them a ten percent share of
the value of the catch is estimated at the time of the
vessel's return, buyers typically pay more than the
estimate, and the crew is entitled to have this upward
“adjustment” added to the value of the catch for
purposes of computing the ultimate share due each seaman. The
plaintiffs' original complaint alleged that Hatch failed
to pay them the full amount due by not including the
adjustment in the valuation computation, by falsifying the
value of the catch, and by not providing an accurate
accounting as required by statute.
plaintiffs allege that their agreements were oral in nature
and never reduced to writing. This is important because
maritime law penalizes ship owners for failing to enter into
written contracts by awarding deck hands enhanced damages
when they prove that they had only an oral contract, and that
it was breached. See 46 U.S.C. § 10601;
Seattle-First Nat. Bank v. Conway, 98 F.3d 1195,
1198 (9th Cir. 1996) (holding that maritime law
“provides a penalty against vessel owners who employ
seamen without written agreements in violation of §
originally claimed that both plaintiffs had written
contracts, but later conceded that plaintiff Allen had only
an oral agreement. Hatch continues to allege that plaintiff
Dunn has a written agreement, and proffered a contract to
plaintiffs' counsel with Dunn's signature affixed.
Dunn counters that his signature was forged.
recover their full wages, plaintiffs originally brought
claims for breach of contract and fraud, seeking recovery for
(1) wages equal to the highest crew-share paid out of the
port of engagement; (2) double wage penalties under state
law; (3) punitive damages under the general maritime law; (4)
the sale of the vessel Silver Bullet to satisfy the
wages and penalties due to plaintiffs; and (5) attorney fees.
See Complaint (Dkt. No. 1).
earlier decision, the Court (1) dismissed all claims against
Bryce Hatch individually; (2) dismissed claims for punitive
damages under maritime law - and wage penalties under state
law - sought under a breach of contract claim brought under
§ 10601, § 11107, and §§ 10602(a), (b)
& (c); (3) required plaintiffs to amend their complaint
to allege the fraud claim with particularity; and (4) granted
plaintiffs time to conduct discovery on whether Hatch
concealed the payment of an adjustment by the buyer and
understated the amount the buyer paid for the catch. See
Memorandum Decision (Dkt. No. 64).
conducting discovery, plaintiffs claim that (1) they found
evidence that Hatch understated the amount the buyer paid for
the catch; and (2) found no evidence that Hatch concealed the
payment of an adjustment by the buyer. See Notice (Dkt.
have now filed their Amended Complaint, and Hatch responded
by filing a second motion to dismiss. Hatch seeks to dismiss
(1) the fraud claim; and (2) the allegations in the amended
complaint that continue to allege claims against Bryce Hatch
personally and continue to seek punitive damages for
violation of the statutory wage claims. The motions do not
affect the breach of contract allegations.