Northeast Research, LLC v. One Shipwrecked Vessel
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
729 F.3d 197 (2013)
Northeast Research, LLC (Northeast) (plaintiff) searched the bottom of Lake Erie for shipwrecks. While searching the lake, Northeast found a shipwreck known as the Dunkirk Schooner (the schooner) at a depth of 170 feet. The cargo holds contained, at the very least, wheat, barley, and nuts. The identity of the schooner was impossible to determine with complete certainty. Northeast asserted that the schooner was the General Wayne, a merchant vessel that had been converted into an American warship during the War of 1812. An archaeological research team suggested that the schooner was one of four possible historic ships, including the General Wayne. Regardless, the schooner appeared to have been undisturbed for at least 150 years. There was no indication that any salvage attempts had been made even though sufficient technology to locate and recover the vessel existed around the approximate time of the vessel’s wreck. No claims had been made by any owners or successors in interest of the General Wayne or the other possible vessels since the time of the wreck. Northeast filed an action in the district court to claim the shipwreck under admiralty law as finder of the vessel. The State of New York intervened. New York claimed title to the wreck under the Abandoned Shipwreck Act because the act vests title to abandoned shipwrecks in the state in which the wreck was found. New York moved for summary judgment, claiming that title automatically vested in the state under the Abandoned Shipwreck Act. Northeast filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment, arguing the vessel was not abandoned and, alternatively, requested a salvage award. The district court found that the schooner had been abandoned, so title vested in the state. Northeast appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Livingston, J.)
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