Maritime Nature of Principal Subject

The principal subjects of admiralty jurisdiction are maritime contracts and maritime torts.  The general doctrine is that in contract matters admiralty jurisdiction depends upon the nature of the transaction and in tort matters jurisdiction depends upon the locality.[i]  Therefore, it has been held that when an employee working on board a vessel in navigable waters sustains personal injuries and seeks damages from the employer the liability of employer is determined under maritime law.  However, if the employee had been injured on land while unloading from the vessel, the local law is to be applied.[ii]

Admiralty jurisdiction extends to maritime liens, maritime service claims, crimes on vessels and navigable waters, and sundry other matters.  Admiralty court has jurisdiction only over matters of maritime nature.[iii]  However, there is no definite definition for subjects of maritime nature.  It has been held that the relation of the wrong to maritime service, to navigation and to commerce on navigable waters, is sufficient to give jurisdiction to court.[iv]

[i] Victory Carriers, Inc. v. Law, 404 U.S. 202 (U.S. 1971)

[ii] Id

[iii] Yone Suzuki & Co. v. Central Argentine R., Ltd., 19 F.2d 645 (D.N.Y. 1927)

[iv] Exec. Jet Aviation v. City of Cleveland, 409 U.S. 249, 258 (U.S. 1972)


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