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Nonfatal Injuries

In deciding admiralty jurisdiction, it is not the place of occurrence of the wrong but the place of impact that is to be considered.  However, a wrong resulting in death is an exception to this rule.

If a floating vessel is damaged by colliding with a drawbridge, it becomes a maritime tort.  On the other hand, if an injury to a person or property is caused on land even though it originated on the water, admiralty will not have jurisdiction.  However, these rules are subject to modification by the Admiralty Jurisdiction Extension Act.

In Milwaukee v. The Curtis, 37 F. 705 (D. Wis. 1889), the City sought damages to a swing-bridge spanning the navigable waters of a river caused by the negligent conduct of the vessels. The argument of the City was that the injury happened in the midst of, or in the space above, the water and has to be considered to have occurred on water.  The Court held that a swing-bridge was not upon the water and that it was sustained in space above the river.  While deciding this case, the Court stated that “the ultimate judicial authority has determined the principle that the true meaning of the rule of locality is that, although the origin of the wrong is on the water, yet, if the consummation and substance of the injury are on the land, a court of admiralty has not jurisdiction; that the place or locality of the injury is the place or locality of the thing injured, and not of the agent causing the injury.”

A similar point was elucidated by the court upon deciding the case Smith v. Lampe, 64 F.2d 201 (6th Cir. Ohio 1933).  Here the court opined that “where the negligent act originates on land and the damage occurs on water, the cause of action is within the admiralty jurisdiction.”

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