McGowan v. Pierside Boatworks, Inc. (Lawyers Weekly No. 002-067-17, 5 pp.) (Patrick Michael Duffy, J.) 2:16-cv-03529; D.S.C.
Holding: In a contract to repair plaintiff’s sailboat, one provision invoked admiralty law while another said South Carolina law would govern. In order to give effect to both choice-of-law provisions, the court concludes that the parties intended for general maritime law to be supplemented by South Carolina state law in the absence of a conflict between the two.
The court denies plaintiff’s motion to dismiss defendant’s counterclaim.
In assessing the timeliness of a maritime claim, the doctrine of laches typically applies rather than any fixed statute of limitations. General maritime law ordinarily looks to the most similar state statute of limitations to establish a presumption of timeliness or untimeliness for purposes of the laches doctrine.
The court finds that it was the parties’ intent to use South Carolina law as the benchmark statute of limitations when determining whether laches applies to defendant’s counterclaim. Applying South Carolina’s three-year statute of limitations for a breach of contract claim, there is a presumption that defendant’s counterclaim is untimely because defendant last sent an invoice for repairs in 2012.
However, the evidence that informs the analysis of the laches factors set forth in Am. S.S. Owners Mut. Prot. & Indem. Ass’n, Inc. v. Dann Ocean Towing, Inc., 756 F.3d 314 (4th Cir. 2014), is not sufficiently present on the face of the complaint or its attachments for the court to rule on them at this time.