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Charleston School of Law
Bridwell, R. Randall


Day 1


Three subjects: covered in CB

Jurisdiction- pgs 1-118 CB-

Pg. 92, 98-119 -Maritime Connection

-includes tort and contract jurisdictions

Maritime Liens-pgs 431-529

-security interests in a vessel

Maritime Torts -pgs 954-1148

-specialized tort systems

US Constitution Article 3 Section 2

“all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction”

28 USC § 1333- district courts will have original jurisdiction-jurisdiction

1) described in terms of admiralty subject matter

2) savings clause (saving to suitors clause)

Not federal question or diversity

No jurisdictional amount

Admiralty claims are not tried before a jury, venue statutes do not apply, and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow more liberal use of the Rule 14 impleader. Rule 14(c) also third party intervention is easier

In Admiralty, the parol evidence rule does not apply

FRCP 9(h)- alternative basis of jurisdiction-if claim is within admiralty and subject matter

FRCP 14(c)- third party practice-indemnity -for admiralty cases

FRCP 38(e)-no right to a jury in Admiralty cases

FRCP 82- admiralty and maritime case is not a civil action- not treated like law suits-it’s a one of a kind thing

Invoking this jurisdiction is removing the case from the normal system

“Saving to Suitors”-saving clause-allows a case to be brought under state jurisdiction is it is an issue that can be resolved under common law remedies and there is not a diversity issue

Section 1333(1) of Title 28 of US Code-gives the federal district courts “original jurisdiction, exclusive of the courts of the States,” of admiralty and maritime cases, “saving to suitors in all cases all other remedies to which they are otherwise entitled.”

The savings clause is interpreted to reserve to suitors the right of a common law remedy “in all cases where the common law is competent to give it.”

For instance, in personam, a plaintiff may elect either to proceed in admiralty or bring an ordinary civil action.

Maritime Law

1. general maritime law-like common law-cases

Displaces state law-federalizes anything you can get

2. statutory maritime law-substantive law of torts and contracts -substantive admiralty laws will prevail

“Savings suitors” clause-you can invoke the jurisdiction of a court under diversity claim and not admiralty so you can get a jury trial if you want it

Different ways to bring suit that affect third party issues and findings of fact

§ 1333 opens up concurrent jurisdiction-federal and state

§ 1332 they will know you want a jury trial

Jurisdiction including torts and contracts

Two basic ideas to look for to determine if you have jurisdiction-based on history and the Constitution

1. locality-facts of the case-where something happened

2. subject matter- can’t just be injured swimmers or surfers-needs to be a federal interest

Tort jurisdiction rule was formerly that only locality was important

There are only two kinds of places in the world-land and water

Place where the tort occurred-1) act or omission of Defendant 2) causation 3) damages

Do they all have to have occurred over navigable waters? What if only the damages occur over navigable waters? That is enough of a connection.

Don’t have to have all, but you gotta have one.

Torts are now about both locality and subject matter

Contracts are all subject matter -pure maritime connection-do not have to have locality-there is a list of maritime contracts from the Supreme Court eg: sue over a boat on land rationale that the contract creates locality-contract is about water

Jurisdiction Necessaries

Tort-navigable water/ vessel→1.locality plus 2. Maritime connection

Contract-navigable water/ vessel→ just maritime connection

All these Admiralty cases involve

1) locality in

2) navigable waters of the United States

3) vessels

How to identify these things

Navigable Waters of the United States (locality)-First Thing to Analyze

The Daniel Ball U.S. 1870- the rivers must be regarded as public navigable rivers in law which are navigable in fact. They are navigable in fact when they are used, or are susceptible of being used, in their ordinary condition, as highways for commerce, over which trade and travel are or may be conducted in the customary modes of trade and travel on water.

Alford v. Appalachian Power Fourth Circuit 1991 Held that admiralty jurisdiction did not extend to accident in land-locked lake located entirely within one state, even though lake was formed by backup of dam on river which had been previously used for interstate navigation. Great case about LOCALITY.

Body of water that is confined within state and does not form part of interstate waterway is not an admiralty concern. We are looking for a continuous highway. Could be back under Admiralty if undammed and given access to leave state.

“Navigable water” for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction, is body of water which in its present configuration, constitutes federal highway of commerce, alone or together with another body of water, between states or with foreign countries over which commerce in its current mode is capable of being conducted.

Grab an atlas, update with geographical charts

h, even of the injury and damages were on land

Not all the elements have to be on navigable waters

A chain of injury producing elements

Locality-even if breach occurs on land, as long as damages/injury are over navigable waters-its sufficient as long as there is a chain of causation to connect the breach and injury

Jerome B. Grubart, Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co.-U.S.-1995-

Executive Jet Aviation, Inc. v. City of Cleaveland-U.S.-1972-

Current Standard:

“Locality plus”

-Maritime connection-(subject matter)

Two part test “nexus”:

1. potential to disrupt navigation of vessel on navigable waters-NOT the particular facts of the case-but the potential of the activity to disrupt-“the same general character of the activity” in a busy section of navigable waters

2. substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity-(is there a vessel)

Weaver v. Hollywood Casino-Aurora Seventh Circuit 2001- Gaming boat/riverboat is a commercial boat transporting passengers for profit-an injury to its crew disrupts commerce

Choat v. Kawasaki Motors Corp.-1996-Defendants want Admiralty jurisdiction because it doesn’t have the more extreme damages that Alabama State law has. If admiralty jurisdiction is present it will apply…even in a state court because of the Supremacy Clause.

H2O Houseboat Vacations v. Hernandez- Ninth Circuit 1996- emission of carbon monoxide fumes inside contained space within houseboat tied to shore had no potential to disrupt maritime commerce, and thus admiralty jurisdiction was lacking because there was no maritime connection

Sisson v. Ruby U.S. 1990-held district court had admiralty jurisdiction, because storage and maintenance of a vessel is a “traditional maritime activity” and that the fire had “significant relationship to maritime activity.” Admiralty subject -matter jurisdiction. Pivotal case about SUBJECT MATTER-maritime connection-dryer fire didn’t involve navigation but it could have burned down the dock and all the other ships

-maritime jurisdiction is appropriate when a potential hazard to maritime commerce arises out of an activity that bears a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity.