Striebel v. The “Chairman”

In Admiralty Practice, In Rem Actions and Arrest on (Updated )

This case concerned a ship building contract that went awry. The Plaintiffs, the mortgagees and intended owners of the defendant ship, commenced this action against the shipbuilder for damages. The Defendant shipbuilder counterclaimed for lost opportunity to complete the construction of the vessel. These reasons deal with three interlocutory motions. The first was an ex parte motion brought by the Plaintiffs for an order that the sheriff go into possession of the defendant vessel. The second motion was by the Defendant to set aside the ex parte Order. The third motion was by the Plaintiff for an order to move the Defendant vessel to the premises of another shipyard for completion. The Prothonotary allowed the motions by the Plaintiffs and dismissed the motion by the Defendant. With respect to the motion to put the sheriff into possession the Prothonotary noted that there was no authority setting a test to be met to put a sheriff or marshal into possession. The Prothonotary thought that the test should be set at a very low threshold and held that an appropriate test should be “reasonably plausible evidence that the vessel should have the protection afforded by a sheriff in possession”. The Prothonotary found this test was met in the this case as there was evidence of petty vandalism and obstructionism by the Defendant’s employees. With respect to the motion to set aside the ex parte Order, the Defendant argued, inter alia, that the Order should be set aside because the Plaintiffs did not give full disclosure. The Prothonotary held that the facts relied upon by the Defendant were not material and further noted that the setting aside of an ex parte order putting a sheriff into possession should be upheld if there is any possibility that possession in the sheriff may be of reasonable value. Finally, with respect to the motion to move the vessel to another shipyard for completion, the Prothonotary allowed the motion noting that the Plaintiffs had exercised their right to take possession of the vessel as mortgagees which they were entitled to do and further that any damages the Defendant might suffer would be secured by a bond to be supplied by the Plaintiffs.