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Last-Minute Filing Rocks the Boat in Maritime Case

By William Vogeler, Esq. on October 16, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

This case is about ships passing in the night, or at least pleadings just missing each other in a maritime case.

Dr. Amr Fawzy sued a boat manufacturer for selling him a defective yacht. Just before the court filed an order dismissing his case, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint.

Fawzy appealed the dismissal, but the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal because the amended complaint was the operative pleading.

Last-Minute Filing

In 2011, Dr. Fawzy bought a 55-foot sail boat from Wauquiez Boats in northern France. He paid $1.13 million for the vessel, and sailed across the Atlantic to his home in Massachusetts.

He alleged in his complaint "numerous problems," however, "which resulted in great danger" to his life. Wauquiez Boats moved to dismiss for lack of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, and wanted sanctions because the plaintiff attached one of its other boats.

The district court ruled for the company, not knowing Dr. Fawzy filed an amended version just before the court filed its order.

Fatal to Jurisdiction

In Fawzy v. Wauquiez Boats SNC, the Fourth Circuit said a properly filed amended complaint supersedes the original and becomes the operative complaint. Once Fawzy filed his amended complaint, the court's ruling on the original was mooted.

"[T]he effect of the amended complaint's filing was fatal to our jurisdiction," the appeals panel said.

Dr. Fawzy, in effect, had two near misses. He survived the dangerous Atlantic crossing and possible sanctions.

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