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Sink or Swim: Charting the Right Course in Admiralty Jurisdiction -- 5 Takeaways

January 5, 2022

  1. Admiralty cases can be brought in state court: Personal injury plaintiffs are permitted to bring an admiralty case in state court under the “Savings to Suitors Clause” in the 1789 Judiciary Act, clause codified at 28 USC § 1331. The main reason they might wish to do so is because there are no jury trials in federal court admiralty cases.
  2. Admiralty jurisdiction depends on location of the incident and relation to maritime activity: To fall under admiralty law, the tort must have occurred in a location of maritime activity and occur in connection with traditional maritime activity, such as fishing, transportation of goods or people. Pleasure boat and jet ski incidents can also be admiralty cases, depending on where the incident occurred.
  3. Some state court defenses are not available in admiralty cases: An admiralty based case proceeding in Florida state courts may loose some procedures and defenses that are based on Florida law, such as filing proposals for settlement and attributing fault to non-party, Fabre defendants.
  4. Vessel owners can limit their liability: People or companies who have legal title to the vessel) may be able to limit their liability to the post-casualty value of the vessel, pursuant to 46 U.S.C. §30501, if the incident occurred in US Navigable Waters.
  5. Six month deadline to limit liability: A vessel owner only has six months from the date of the loss to seek limitation of liability by filing an action in Federal Court. Fed. R. Civ. P. XIII, Supplemental Rules for Admiralty and Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture, Rule F.

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