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Diving Into Shallow Water - No Admiralty Jurisdiction Says Ficarra Ruling

Defense attorneys trying to protect an insurer's deep pockets will sometimes "remove" a case from state court to federal. This "removal" is a legal mechanism that when pulled allows a defendant to move a lawsuit into federal court provided there's a basis for the suit to be in federal court. In a recent decision from the snow-bound trails of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District New York, a federal judge found just such a "removal" improper.

The case involves a gruesome and paralyzing injury following a dive from a recreational boat into shallow waters. Suit was brought by the injured soul against the boat driver alleging negligence. The case was "removed" to federal court on the basis that the matter was subject to admiralty jurisdiction. Admiralty claims provide a lawful reason to be in federal court.

However, in dissecting the claims asserted in the lawsuit and laying them alongside the test for admiralty jurisdiction, the Court found admiralty jurisdiction lacking. Among other things, the Court found that the focal point of the boat owner's negligence was failing to advise a passenger of the shallow depths and that, the Court reasoned, did not have the potential to disrupt maritime commerce. Without being able to land that disruption element, the Court was not able to find admiralty jurisdiction existed. As a result, the suit was sent back (or "remanded") to be tried in state court.

It's an interesting case and worth a read. You can read a copy of the decision by clicking HERE.

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