Broadley v. Mashpee Neck Marina, Inc. case brief summary
471 F.3d 272 (2006)
Plaintiff vessel owner appealed from the
United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, which
entered summary judgment for defendant marina upon the owner's
personal injury action alleging the marina's negligence. The district
court narrowed the boilerplate exculpatory clause of the parties'
contract for seasonal mooring, reforming the clause to limit it to
ordinary negligence. As reformed, it barred the owner's suit.
CASE FACTS The owner was injured at the marina when
his foot became caught in a gap between the main dock and a floating
dock. Because of its connection to maritime activities, the
exculpatory clause was governed by federal admiralty law. The owner's
main argument on appeal was that, under admiralty law, a party could
not completely absolve itself of liability for ordinary negligence.
The court determined that contract clause was vastly overbroad and
against public policy insofar as it purported to absolve the marina
of liability for gross negligence, recklessness, and intentional
Those concerns led the court to reject the application of
the contract's severability clause to rescue the overbroad
In declining to narrow the exculpatory clause,
the court relied on the extreme overbreadth of the clause and the
plainness of its illegality, the boilerplate character of the
contract and lack of negotiation, the absence of an explicit
reference to negligence, and the attorney's fees clause.
could be argued that the overbreadth argument was not adequately
developed on appeal, the court reversed the decision, ruling that
invalidity was the more just result.
The court reversed the decision of the district court and remanded
the case for further proceedings. Recommended Supplements and Study Aids for Property Law
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