Us maritime lawyers often engage in pitched battles over whether a claim or contract is subject to the Court's admiralty jurisdiction. Here are three general comments on admiralty jurisdiction that we suspect are not well known:
- When the Court's admiralty jurisdiction is invoked the substantive body of admiralty law and its many unique legal procedures come into play and, with some exceptions, its presence displaces state law;
- In very broad terms, whether a claim arising from harm you suffered (i.e. a "maritime tort") is subject to admiralty jurisdiction largely depends on whether it occurred on navigable waters. (There are other requirements, but the navigable waters element is a heavy-weight consideration.); and
- A jury trial is generally not available in an admiralty proceeding, although there are specific instances where the right to a jury trial may be preserved such as with a Jones Act claim, or, a claim involving an injured passenger.
And for a bonus, we note that a contract to build a vessel is generally not subject to the Court's admiralty jurisdiction.
Underway and making way.
By John K Fulweiler
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