Admiralty Jurisdiction Over Pollution

A pollution claim is treated as cognizable in admiralty.  However, the injury caused must be related to maritime rather than to aesthetic or ecological concerns.[i] If the interests of the affected party is related to ecological or some concerns that are local in nature it will not come under the admiralty jurisdiction.[ii]

In South Port Marine, LLC v. Gulf Oil Ltd. Pshp., 234 F.3d 58 (1st Cir. Me. 2000), the floating docks of plaintiff that were damaged by an oil spill were extensions of the land.  Therefore, it was observed that a tort that causes damage to them does not occur wholly on navigable waters and thus constitutes an action at law, rather than in admiralty.

In Moore v. Hampton Roads Sanitation Dist. Com., 557 F.2d 1030 (4th Cir. 1977), plaintiff, an oyster company, brought a cause of action against defendants alleging that the oyster beds leased to them by the state was destroyed as the result of the improper operation of a sewage disposal system.  The court found that the interests of the oyster company were purely local in nature, and it cannot be brought within the admiralty jurisdiction of federal courts.

[i] Kohlasch v. New York State Thruway Authority, 460 F. Supp. 956 (S.D.N.Y. 1978)

[ii] Moore v. Hampton Roads Sanitation Dist. Com., 557 F.2d 1030 (4th Cir. 1977)


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