Select Page

Admiralty
Rutgers University, Newark School of Law
Geraghty, J. Patrick

I. Constitutional/Statutory Authority
A. US Constitution Art. III, §2 – “The judicial power shall extend … to all Cases of admiralty and maritime jdx.”
B. 28 USC §1333 – Any civil case of admiralty or maritime jdx, saving to suitors in all cases all other remedies to which they are otherwise entitled.
II. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
A. Tort
1. 28 USC §1333 provides the test for general maritime jurisdiction. The Grubart test lays out the test and is comprised of determining:
a. Threshold Issues:
i. Whether the tort was committed by a vessel (Evansville)?
ii. If so, did the tort occur on navigable waters (Lynch)?
b. Under Grubart Test:
i. Location: (1) Did the tort occur on navigable water or (2) within the ambit of the Admiralty Extension Act (AEA)?
(a) Location (1) is determined under Lynch.
(b) AEA – extends admiralty and maritime jdx of the US to and include all cases of damage or injury, to person or property, [*proximately*] caused by a vessel on navigable water, notwithstanding that such damage or injury be done or consummate on land.
ii. Connection: (1) Does the type of incident have a potentially disruptive impact on commerce (described at an intermediate generality) and (2) Does the general character of the activity giving rise to the incident bear a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity?
c. Vessel
i. 1 USC §3 provides that a vessel is every description of a watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water.
ii. Evansville Key Elements:
(a) Possessing commercial character à Capable of transporting freight or people from one place to another;
(b) Practically capable of being used as a means of transportation (being able to float on, over, or in water per Crab Case);
(c) Encounter the perils of navigation to which craft used for transportation are exposed
(d) Affixed to a permanent location (is it an extension of land? If so, not a vessel);
(e) Shows functions that might be performed by an appropriate structure on land or by a floating state/platform attached to land.
iii. Keys Jet Ski – Jet skis, which are not different from small motor boats capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water, are capable of substantially equivalent transportation on water.
d. Navigable Water à Water that is navigable in fact
i. Lynch – Water is navigable when used, or 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.
(a) Where water is navigable only by noncommercial fisherman, boaters, water skiers and pleasure boaters, then the water way is not navigable for purposes of exercising admiralty jdx. (Adams)
(b) An artificial body of water is navigable in fact for purposes of conferring admiralty jdx if it is used or capable or susceptible of being used as an interstate highway for commerce over which trade or travel is or may be conducted in customary modes of travel on water. (Finneseth)
(i) Commercial activity doesn’t have to be presently occurring as long as the body of water is “capable” of sustaining commercial activity.
(ii) Seasonal navigability can be found. The water need not be navigable at all times.
(c) Not every river, stream, or water that meanders between states must reasonably be subject to uniform admiralty rules (some are too l

emovable to federal ct.
4. 28 USC §1441 – Removal
a. Under certain circumstances, Ds may remove a case from state to federal ct.
b. Once properly removed, it proceeds thru fed. ct as though it were originally filed there.
c. Common basis for removal is that case could’ve been originally filed in fed. ct, so it meets constitutional and statutory jurisdictional criteria.
B. Contract [Typically lead to personal injury, negligence, wrongful death, and unseaworthy claims in Tort] 1. In matters of contract, whether admiralty jdx attaches depends on the nature and character of the contract; thus, whether the contract has reference to maritime service or transactions.
a. DeLovio – In dicta, the ct listed the following as maritime contracts: charter parties; contracts for maritime service in the building, repairing, supplying, and navigating ships; contracts between part owners of ships; police of marine insurance; etc…
b. Kossick – In dicta, the ct stated that “an agreement to pay damages for another breach” of a maritime contract was not a maritime contract.
c. Cts uniformly reject the English rule that for a contract must be performed on the high seas (or navigable waters) in order to be within admiralty jdx.
i. Exception: Cantlen – Rental contract on a houseboat was not a maritime contract in part, because the houseboat was not located in navigable waters.