Answers by Defendant in Maritime Attachment or Garnishment Cases

An important aspect of admiralty practice is the ability of a plaintiff to obtain jurisdiction over a defendant by attaching the defendant’s property.[i] The plaintiff suing in admiralty may make a maritime claim to attach the defendant’s property if the defendant cannot be found in the district.[ii].  Maritime attachment vests the court with quasi in rem jurisdiction over the defendant and provides the plaintiff with security for his/her claim.[iii] Historically, maritime attachment has served two purposes: to secure a respondent’s appearance and to secure satisfaction, in case the suit is successful.[iv]

In maritime attachment and garnishment cases, the defendant can answer to the order of attachment.  Fed. R. Civ. P. Supp. Admiralty Rule B(3)(b) states the time within which the defendant need to answer the order of attachment.  Accordingly, the defendant is required to serve the answer within 30 days after the execution of process.[v] The process for appearance is executed by attachment or by service on the garnishee.

Under Rule B of the Supplemental Admiralty Rules, a plaintiff may attach the defendant’s property if the following conditions are met:

  • The plaintiff has a valid prima facie admiralty claim against the defendant;
  • The defendant cannot be found within the district;
  • Property of the defendant can be found within the district; and
  • There is no statutory or maritime law bar to the attachment.

[i] Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce Vol.20, No.4, Nov.1989 Introduction to Maritime Attachment by Robert M. Jarvis.

[ii] Supplemental Rule B of Federal Civil Rules of Practice.

[iii] Manro Vs.Almeida 23 US 473.

[iv] Swift & Company Packers v. Compania Colombiana Del Caribe, S.A., 339 U.S. 684.

[v] Fed. R. Civ. P. Supp. Admiralty Rule B(3)(b).