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Media Alerts - Fawzy v. Wauquiez Boats -- Fourth Circuit
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November 21, 2017
  Fawzy v. Wauquiez Boats -- Fourth Circuit
Amended Complaint Sinks Appeal in Maritime Law Dispute

Areas of Law: Civil Procedure

Issue Presented: Whether the district court's order dismissing Fawzy's original complaint was a final decision where Fawzy amended his complaint one hour before the court issued its order.

Brief Summary: Fawzy filed suit against the boat dealer that sold him a million-dollar yacht. Without specifically notifying the judge assigned to the case, Fawzy then filed an amended complaint with the clerk's office. An hour after the amended complaint was filed the district court, unaware of the amendment, dismissed Fawzy's original complaint. Fawzy appealed this dismissal. The Fourth Circuit held that because the district court never issued a final decision on the amended complaint, the Fourth Circuit lacked appellate jurisdiction.

Extended Summary: In 2011, Dr. Amr Fawzy bought a $1.13 million boat from Wauquiez Boats in France. While sailing home across the Atlantic, Fawzy began to experience difficulties operating the vessel, including problems with the main sail and foresail. Fawzy experienced these problems for several years despite his efforts to have Wauquiez Boats resolve them.

On October 6, 2016, Fawzy filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, alleging a breach of maritime contract and for products liability under general maritime law. Wauquiez Boats filed a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), claiming Fawzy lacked maritime jurisdiction. On October 12, 2016, the district court held a hearing on the motion to dismiss, and on October 14, the court dismissed the case and directed the clerk to "close the case."

Unbeknownst to the court, Fawzy amended his complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 15 one hour before the district court issued its order dismissing his original complaint. In the amended complaint, Fawzy added several new causes of action and eight paragraphs of new facts. Fawzy never alerted the court to this amended complaint, but he appealed the district court's order dismissing his original complaint.

The Fourth Circuit dismissed Fawzy's appeal because the court did not have appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. The court first considered whether Fawzy had subject matter jurisdiction under § 1291, which confers appellate jurisdiction over all appeals from final decisions of United States district courts. To constitute a final decision, the decision must end the litigation on the merits and leave nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment. The Fourth Circuit explained that Fawzy's amended complaint superseded his original complaint and rendered it ineffective because it complied with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15. Thus, the district court ruled on a "moot" complaint and could not have issued a final decision since it never addressed the amended complaint. Because the district court never issued a final decision, the Fourth Circuit dismissed the case for lack of appellate jurisdiction.

To read the full opinion, click here.

Panel: Circuit Judges Niemeyer, King and Harris

Argument Date: 09/15/2017

Date of Issued Opinion: 10/12/2017

Docket Number: 16-2311

Decided: Dismissed by published opinion

Case Alert Author: Matthew Schofield, Univ. of Maryland Carey School of Law

Counsel: Alexander McKenzie Giles, SEMMES, BOWEN & SEMMES, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant/Cross-Appellee. C. Edward Hartman, III, HARTMAN & EGELI, LLP, Annapolis, Maryland, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant. ON BRIEF: Imran O. Shaukat, SEMMES, BOWEN & SEMMES, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant/Cross-Appellee. John R. Griffin, HARTMAN & EGELI, LLP, Annapolis, Maryland, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

Author of Opinion: Circuit Judge Niemeyer

Case Alert Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 11/21/2017 02:22 PM     4th Circuit  

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