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Parsell v. Shell Oil Co.

Citation: 7 ELR 20149
No. No. B-700, 421 F. Supp. 1275/9 ERC 2066/(D. Conn., 10/19/1976)

The court grants a motion to strike plaintiffs' jury demand in a suit by private parties seeking damages for injuries from an oil spill in Bridgeport Harbor. Although the complaint states a cause of action in admiralty, it does not state a legal claim under federal question jurisdiction since there is no private right of action for compensatory damages under either § 407 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 or the federal common law of water pollution. The case law supports the conclusion that proceedings under § 407 are to be initiated only by the Department of Justice. In addition, only governmental entities can bring suit under the federal common law of nuisance, and such actions can reach only interstate pollution, not intrastate discharges such as the spill in this case. Moreover, there is some authority for the view that federal common law nuisance suits must seek injunctive relief rather than damages. The case must therefore remain on the admiralty side of the court, where jury trial is unavailable.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Daniel Shepro
177 State St.
Bridgeport CN 06603
(203) 335-1106

Counsel for Defendants
G. Whitney Biggs
Pullman, Comley, Bradley & Reeves
855 Main St.
Bridgeport CN 06603
(203) 334-0112