BUS FPX 3021 Assessment 1 Case Law Analysis - Contract Law
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BUS FPX 3021 Assessment 1 Case Law Analysis – Contract Law

BUS FPX 3021 Assessment 1 Case Law Analysis – Contract Law


Capella university

BUS-FPX3021 Fundamentals of Business Law

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Case Law Analysis

CITGO Asphalt Refining Co. et al. v. Frescati Shipping Co., Ltd., et al. (2020)

Petitioner: CITGO Asphalt Refining Company, et al. (CARCO)
Respondent: Frescati Shipping Co., Ltd., et al.
Court and Date Decided: United States Supreme Court. Decided: March 30, 2020


The incident in question involved the Star-managed oil tanker Athos I, which was sub-chartered by CARCO. While en route from Venezuela to New Jersey in 2004, the tanker’s hull was punctured by an abandoned ship anchor during docking at the CITGO facility in Paulsboro, New Jersey, resulting in the spillage of 264,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delaware River. This spill disrupted shipping activities and contaminated over 45 miles of shoreline in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Frescati Shipping Company, the ship owner, bore cleanup costs of $133 million, as mandated by the 1990 Oil Pollution Act, 33 U.S.C. 2702(a). Frescati was subsequently reimbursed $88 million from the U.S. Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (Associated Press, 2011).

The U.S. government and Frescati then pursued legal action against CARCO for breaching the safe berth clause in the subcharter agreement, which held CARCO responsible for maintaining a safe berth for the vessel near their docks. Initially ruled in favor of CARCO by the U.S. District Court, the case was subsequently appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which partially vacated the District Court’s decision, leading to a review. The District Court affirmed CARCO’s responsibility to maintain a safe berth, placing the burden of cleanup on CARCO.

BUS FPX 3021 Assessment 1 Case Law Analysis – Contract Law

Following an unsuccessful appeal by CARCO to the Third Circuit, the case was brought before the Supreme Court to determine the interpretation of the “safe berth” clause and whether it constituted a warranty of safety or a duty of due diligence. Justice Sotomayor wrote, “The question before us is whether the safe-berth clause is a warranty of safety, imposing liability for an unsafe berth regardless of CARCO’s diligence in selecting the berth. We hold that it is” (Schuler, 2020). The Supreme Court’s decision on March 30, 2020, upheld CARCO’s liability for maintaining a safe berth, affirming the Third Circuit’s decision in a 7-2 majority opinion, with two justices dissenting.

Business Impact

This ruling may negatively affect charterers’ businesses as they are now tasked with ensuring the safety of their dock areas, potentially incurring significant costs. In the realm of marine commerce, where complexity abounds, a due diligence approach may be more appropriate, with all parties taking responsible actions. However, the decision will also compel waterway cleanup efforts, yielding positive impacts on the surrounding ecological environment and reducing the likelihood of future oil spills.

Legal and Ethical Compliance

The circumstances leading to this incident lacked ethical consideration, particularly regarding the monitoring of hazardous materials at CARCO’s docks. The Supreme Court’s decision, following a deontological approach, held charterers accountable for vessel safety while in dock. This ethical stance aligns with the demands of addressing oil spill issues consistently and underscores the importance of legal responsibility in marine commerce.

Impact on Specific Organization

As an exemplar, Marine Chartering Company, a global transportation brokerage firm specializing in ocean transportation, logistics, and freight brokerage, will need to rigorously maintain their docks to prevent potential ecological disasters caused by ship damage. Moving forward, detailed contractual clauses regarding “safe berth” warranties will be imperative, as liability may now rest solely with dock owners.


CITGO Asphalt Refining Co. et al. v. Frescati Shipping Co., Ltd. (2020). Retrieved January 25 from https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/18-565.html

Schuler, M. (2020, March 31). U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Ship Owner in Athos I ‘Safe Berth’ Case. GCaptain. Retrieved January 25 from https://gcaptain.com/u-s-supreme-court-rules-in-favor-of-ship-owner-in-athos-i-safe-berth-case/

The Associated Press. (2011, April 15). Citgo cleared of $177M cleanup of Delaware River in Paulsboro after 2004 oil spill. NJ.COM. Retrieved January 25 from https://www.nj.com/news/2011/04/citgo_cleared_of_177m_cleanup.html

BUS FPX 3021 Assessment 1 Case Law Analysis – Contract Law

Frazin, R. (2020, March 20). Supreme Court rules Citgo responsible for 2004 oil spill. The Hill. Retrieved January 25 from https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/490153-supreme-court-rules-citgo-responsible-for-2004-oil-spill/

Shillington, G., & Grant-Knight, C. (n.d.). CITGO Asphalt Refining Co. v. Frescati Shipping Co., Ltd. Legal Information Institute. Retrieved January 25 from https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/18-565

George, J. (2004, November 29). Delaware River Oil Spill Leaves Wildlife Imperiled. The New York Times. Retrieved January 25 from https://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/29/nyregion/delaware-river-oil-spill-leaves-wildlife-imperiled.html

Marine Chartering. (n.d.). LinkedIn. Retrieved January 25 from https://www.linkedin.com/company/marinechartering

Marine Chartering Company. (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved January 25 from https://www.marinechartering.com/about.html

BUS FPX 3021 Assessment 1 Case Law Analysis – Contract Law