Marex Titanic, Inc. v. The Wrecked And Abandoned Vessel

2 F.3d 544 (1993)


The RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic. In 1985, a joint French/American expedition discovered the ship's remains at a depth of approximately 12,000 feet. In 1987, P1 and The Institute of France for the Research and Exploration of the Sea (IFREMER), a French governmental organization, conducted a joint salvage operation that recovered 1,800 artifacts from the wreck site. P1 and IFREMER were the only salvors to have worked on the wreck.  P, which had never conducted any salvage operations on the ship, filed this action seeking to be named the sole and exclusive owner of any objects recovered from the Titanic or, alternatively, that it be granted a salvage award. P deposited with the court two objects (a piece of metal and a prescription bottle) taken from the wreck. P represented to the court that all competing salvage claims had been abandoned. The district court issued a warrant of arrest, which P was required to publish within 10 days. Notice of the arrest was published 32 days late, and one day after P's ship had begun sailing toward the Titanic. P1's lawyers entered a special appearance seeking to vacate the warrant of arrest because P had obtained the warrant through factual misrepresentations and that the court should dismiss the case in deference to the French Government's prior exercise of jurisdiction. P1 moved for a preliminary injunction to preclude P from salvaging the ship. After several of P1's witnesses had testified, the court issued a temporary restraining order barring P from salvaging the wreck until further order. Realizing how pissed off the judge was and the way the testimony was going against them. P filed a 'Notice of Voluntary Dismissal' pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(A)(i) (the present statute). The court denied dismissal which it argued under Harvey Aluminum, that a voluntary dismissal may be denied if parties have argued the merits and substantial evidence has been introduced. P1 then sought to intervene in P’s action. The district court allowed the intervention and ruled in P1’s favor. P appealed.