Owners Of Failed CNMI Cargo Ship Agree To Settle Lawsuit

Intervenors in M/V Luta lawsuit brought by investor to be paid

By Ferdie De La Torre 

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 18, 2017) – The owners of cargo ship M/V Luta have reached a settlement agreement to pay over $600,000 to the three parties that intervened in Japanese investor Takahisa Yamamoto’s lawsuit against Lt. Gov. Victor Hocog and the vessel’s owners.

Attorney William M. Fitzgerald disclosed yesterday that his clients told him on Friday that a Guam company was willing to provide Luta Mermaid with a loan so it could settle with the former captain of M/V Luta and six crewmembers, Long Consulting LLC, and Norton Lilly International Inc.

Fitzgerald is counsel for M/V Luta, Luta Mermaid LLC, Luta Mermaid president Abelina T. Mendiola, and Luta Mermaid organizers and members Deron T. Mendiola, and Fidel S. Mendiola III, who are all defendants in Yamamoto’s lawsuit.

During the settlement conference before Guam magistrate judge Joaquin Manibusan on Friday, Fitzgerald said they were able to reach an agreement on the settlement amounts that would be paid to the intervenors upon getting the loan.

Fitzgerald said he was also able to talk to the lender’s lawyer, who confirmed that the money was ready to be loaned.

The lawyer said it is important that they get a court decision whether the vessel can be released as soon as possible so they know whether they can move forward with the settlement of the intervenors’ claims.

Fitzgerald said the release of M/V Luta at this time will be in everyone’s interest since it will allow payment and satisfaction to the three groups of intervenors, leaving only Yamamoto to litigate his claims.

Fitzgerald said this will not prejudice Yamamoto since the defendants are Rota residents of Rota and are not going away.

He said a court’s order to M/V Luta’s owner will be sufficient to ensure that the vessel will not go anywhere.

“This would be sufficient security for Mr. Yamamoto to ensure that if he is successful in his suit, he would be able to execute on the asset of the company, Luta Mermaid,” the lawyer pointed out.

Fitzgerald said this is far better alternative for Yamamoto than proceeding with the ship’s sale, where the price the vessel would fetch at an auction is highly questionable and the claims to be paid before him total more than $1 million, pursuant to the figures presented by claimants at the settlement conference.

“I sincerely believe, therefore, that Mr. Yamamoto will not be prejudiced by the court vacating the sale order and releasing the maritime lien,” he added.

Yamamoto is suing Lt. Gov. Hocog and the owner/operators of M/V Luta for allegedly refusing to pay back the $3.4 million that he put up for the vessel.

After Yamamoto filed the lawsuit last Oct. 25, the U.S. Marshal Service seized M/V Luta. The National Maritime Services was appointed as custodian of the vessel.

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