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

Broadly speaking, Admiralty/Maritime law regulates the activity of carrying cargo and passengers over water.
Specifically speaking, Admiralty/Maritime law governs contracts, torts, and worker compensation claims arising out of travel on or over water.

Article III, §2, cl. 3 provides that the judicial power of the federal sovereign is extended to “all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction.”

First step – Determine whether the matter is “in admiralty”, meaning that it comes within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction granted to the federal sovereign under Article III, §2, cl 3.

In order to implement the first step, both geographical and conceptual factors must be applied.
The geographical factors are “navigable waters” and “vessels.”
The conceptual factor is to determine whether the matter has potential impact upon maritime shipping and commerce sufficient to invoke the attention of, and the expenditure of resources by the federal sovereign. (Maritime flavor)


-Uniformity of the maritime law promotes freedom of navigation between states and foreign countries and therefore promotes commercial enterprise. Southern Pacific v. Jensen
-Judicial economy.
-Maritime law is placed under national control because of its intimate relation to navigation and to interstate and foreign commerce. Panama R.R. Co. v. Johnson
-The body of maritime law had the force of law, not from the extraterritorial reach of national laws, nor from abdication of its sovereign powers by any nation, but from acceptance by common consent of civilized communities of rules designed to foster amicable and workable commercial relations. Lauritzen v. Larsen.
-In close cases, courts will lean towards the seafarer based on the now-less prevalent status of seafarers as wards of the court.


Admiralty law, aka maritime law, is concerned w/the rights and obligations that flow from the manning, operation, and loss of ships, as well as the unique rules that distinguish the handling of maritime cases.
Formal admiralty courts do not have jury trials (one exception is seafarers w/personal injury claims).
Admiralty law has a federal common law, all judge-made case law.
There is a reverse Erie Doctrine that is applicable in Admiralty Law.
“Saving to Suitors” clause is important.
There are two different Jones Acts. One refers to personal injury and the other deals with flags. Cabotage Laws.
Seafarer has a couple of remedies: (1) maintenance and cures, in which seafarers are entitled to medical assistance/attention until maximum health is restored.

Problem 1
While sailing aboard a friend’s yacht, a woman was injured when a sudden swell threw her into a chair. After getting out of the hospital, she asked the attorney who had handled her house closing to file suit. If the lawyer is a general practitioner who has no maritime experience, must he decline the representation?
When an attorney accepts representation of a client w/the knowledge that he was neither qualified nor competent to handle her maritime personal injury claim, and took no substantial steps to become qualified in the area of maritime law, and neglected to timely file suit, which resulted in her claim being barred by the statute of limitations, that attorney may be publicly reprimanded. [See The Florida Bar v. Gallagher, 366 So. 2d 397 (Fla. 1978)]

I. Professional responsibility
A. Lousiana State Bar Association v. Edwins (1976)

Facts: LA Attorney (Edwins), was charged with solicitation, failing to account to client for proceeds of settlement, and advancing money to his clients. There were two subsequent persons involves: Thomas and Selzer.
Comm’r found that Edwins:
– improperly solicited employment as attorney to represent him in a seamen’s suit.
Whether Edwins, through his employee (J) solicited employment to represent him, either from him or from (D), a third party who was not authorized by him to request an attorney to come see him.
If he did request D to secure an attorney for him, then no solicitation by Edwins occurred, he came to see him at the request of him through his agent D.
Edwins argued that he and his employee J contacted him only at the request of D, who they presumed was authorized by him to attempt to locate an attorney for him because D was a former employer, quasi-landlord, and responsible businessman who was his friend.
– improperly advanced financial assistance to him during his representation of him
Edwins admitted to having advanced him on various occasions sums of money. The rule is that an attorney may advance the expenses of medical examination, and costs of obtaining and presenting evidence, provided the client remains ultimately liable for such expenses. The spirit or intent of the disciplinary rule is not violated by the advance by an attorney to a client (who has already retained him) of minimal living expenses, of minor sums necessary to prevent foreclosures, or of necessary medical treatment.

– when the suit was settled, improperly neglected to account to him for the withholding of advances and expenses (in addition to his fee) from the proceeds of the settlement.
While no money due to him was withheld from him by Edwins, he admitted receiving all sums shown on Edwin’s books as advances made to him or for his account. However, Edwins’ carelessness in accounting to his client for the proceeds of the settlement will be reprimanded.

Comm’r found that Edwins:
– during his representation of him in a seamen’s suit, improperly advanced some funds to him.
Edwins cash advances to him violated the disciplinary rule, unlike those made to Thomas (which were for necessary living and medical expenses) no justification is shown for them. It is presumed such advances were made with the intention of securing legal representation of him.

Held: Attorney should be reprimanded for (1) soliciting, (2) failure to account for settlement proceeds, and (3) improper advances.
Reasoning: (1) The court found solicitation where an agent of the attorney contacted a third party; had defendant presented testimony of the third party the client authorized the third party to contact the agent or the attorney, no solicitation; (2) The court found failure to account where defendant received a settlement amount and distributed a different amount to client than was agreed upon; there was no foul play, however defendant should have provided an itemized statement; (3) The court found improper advancement where the advances made to a client for which no justification was shown; it is irrelevant that advances are customary in the maritime field. However, (4) the court found no improper advancement where from a retained lawyer to a client for minimal living expenses, minor sums to prevent foreclosure, or necessary medical treatment.

B. Hatteras of Lauderdale, Inc. v. Gemini Lady (1988)

Held: Attorney is subject to Rule 11 sanctions for failing to make a good-faith, meritorious argument.
Facts: Buyer (American) contracted with (Hatteras), a Yacht retailer, to purchase “Gemini Lady.” Hatteras sued American for balance due for certain customization as to the purchase of a ship after American refused to comply with “oral contract re: additional costs.” Counsel for plai

ic water and interstate or foreign commerce is carried out.

The Thomas Jefferson: Admiralty jurisdiction is limited to tidewater.

Waring v. Clark: Admiralty jurisdiction is extended to the Mississippi River because of evidence of tide.

The Genessee Chief (1851)

Held: Admiralty jurisdiction may be extended to Lake Ontario
Facts: On a voyage from Ohio to New York, there was a collision between plaintiff’s and defendant’s ships.
Reasoning: (1) Lake Ontario is the equivalent of a freshwater sea bordering several states and even a foreign nation. (2) Lake Ontario is public water with a great and growing commerce between different states and foreign nation that is subject to all of the incidents and hazards that attend commerce at sea. (3) It would violate the premise of the Union to provide the benefit of admiralty jurisdiction solely to Atlantic states. (4) There is nothing peculiar about the ebb and flow of the tide that makes the ocean more or less suitable to admiralty jurisdiction.

2. Rule: Navigable water must be used for, or capable or susceptible of, interstate commerce; speculation that interstate commerce may be possible is not sufficient to confer admiralty jurisdiction.

Lynch v. McFarland (1992)

Issues: Whether Lake Cumberland is a maritime locality in that is constitutes navigable waters as defined in admiralty jurisprudence. Whether travel, limited to canoeing and rafting, is sufficient for purposes of conferring admiralty jurisdiction. What kind of traffic must occur between two states in order to make a waterway navigable in interstate commerce for purposes of conferring admiralty jurisdiction.

Facts: Plaintiff brought suit for an injury suffered in a pleasure-boating incident on Lake Cumberland. Boats cannot navigate out of Lake Cumberland, which is hemmed in by a dam to the west and Cumberland Falls to the east. The lake backs into the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River, which flows and joins the North Fork (main tributary) of the Cumberland River. Commercial activity on the Big South Fork includes renting of canoes and rafts for navigation across the Tennessee-Kentucky border, which may lead into Lake Cumberland.
Reasoning: (1) Though Lake Cumberland can accommodate large pleasure boats, there is no evidence that these can move interstate, let alone in interstate commerce; (2) The fact that there is a trickling lake from which canoes and/or rafts can pass into Lake Cumberland does not show sufficient susceptibility to interstate commerce; (3) There is no potential for an interstate highway of commerce, either, unless one speculates that an act of God might occur and increase the amount of water flow between the Big South Fork from Tennessee into Kentucky and into Lake Cumberland.
Held: Lake Cumberland and the Big South Fork are not navigable waters; canoeing and rafting up the Big South Fork from Tennessee into Kentucky and Lake