U.S. Supreme Court rejects appeal for compensation for destruction of floating home

MIAMI, Florida (LOG News Service) — The U.S. Supreme Court on April 17 rejected a Florida man’s latest appeal in a landmark case involving the seizure and destruction under maritime law of his floating home.

The justices denied, without comment, Fane Lozman’s petition asking them to enforce their 2013 ruling by ordering the city of Riviera Beach to pay him about $365,000 for the home’s value and legal fees.

Riviera Beach refused to pay the $365,000 Lozman sought, arguing its actions were in line with the laws prior to the 2013 ruling. Lower courts agreed, and the April 17 Supreme Court ruling was Lozman’s last chance.

The 2013 ruling set a new standard for floating homes and other structures. It meant strict federal maritime law could no longer be applied to disputes involving floating structures that have no traditional characteristics of a vessel, such as an engine, rudder or sails. The decision affected thousands of floating homes and business owners across the U.S., including floating gambling casinos docked on rivers.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the court’s 7-2 majority in the 2013 case, said the decision comes down to a simple proposition: “Not every floating structure is a vessel.”

“To state the obvious, a wooden washtub, a plastic dishpan, a swimming platform on pontoons, a large fishing net, a door taken off its hinges, or Pinocchio (when inside the whale) are not ‘vessels,’” Breyer wrote.

The dispute began after Lozman took up residence aboard his houseboat at a Riviera Beach marina in 2006. He became involved in a public battle with the city over its plans to turn the marina over to a developer, eventually leading to the seizure and eventual destruction in 2010 of his floating home under maritime law by Riviera Beach authorities.

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