Law school teaches you broad concepts and fundamental theories as well providing some tools of the trade. With a law degree in hand and a few years of experience under your belt, I'd wager most attorneys' could successfully dabble in different practice areas except for a few niche areas, admiralty law being one of those niche areas. Admiralty law is full of shoals, wicked currents and shifting legal sands making navigation by the inexperienced treacherous. Case in point is the Second Circuit Court of Appeals' recent decision in American Petroleum and Transport, Inc. v. City of New York, Case number 12-4505. You can click HERE to read the appellate decision.
This appellate decision dealt with the rather murky waters of the economic loss rule in admiralty which originated in the case Robins Dry Dock & Repair Co. v. Flint, 275 U.S. 303 (1927). This so-called rule provides that a vessel owner may not be awarded damages for economic loss due to negligence in the absence of physical loss. You can read the 1927 Robins Dry Dock & Repair Co. decision by clicking HERE.
In upholding the lower court's dismissal of the Complaint, the Second Circuit engaged in a lengthy unraveling of the history of this "rule." For the admiralty practitioner, the Second Circuit's decision neatly explains the pros and cons afforded by this rule.
Ultimately, the appellant (that's the party that's taking the appeal) lost. I've had cases that have cut close to this rule's rocks, but by knowing what to look for and how to navigate these waters, we safely got our client's ship into port.
Underway and making way.
By John Fulweiler