Causes of action arising out of maritime torts are within the jurisdiction of admiralty and the substantive maritime law is applicable. A maritime tort action may be jurisdictionally predicated on diversity of citizenship. Analysis of a maritime tort is guided by general principles of negligence law.
Many types of torts have been considered maritime in nature and thus within admiralty jurisdiction, including the following cases:
- claims for personal injuries sustained on board a ship in navigable water,
- or aboard a vessel moored to a wharf in navigable water;
- or for injuries suffered by a worker engaged in repairing a bridge from a vessel moored in navigable water;
- and suits involving breach of the duty to furnish a seaworthy ship;
- assault and battery aboard a ship;
- false detainer or arrest aboard a ship, even by the United States Coast Guard;
- conversion; trespass; and abuse of process aboard a ship;
- a scuba diver’s claim against the crew of a vessel that transported him to a dive site;
- A claim for fraud in inducing the release of the attachment of a vessel; and
- the flight of the vessel, were not maritime in nature so as to give rise to admiralty.
The Federal Tort Claims Act allows litigation of certain claims against the United States in the district courts. The act expressly provides that it does not apply to any claim for which a remedy is provided by the federal statutes pertaining to suits in admiralty. Thus, where a claim for injuries sustained arises in admiralty, it cannot be brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The exemption from the Federal Tort Claims Act applies to third-party complaints.
Parties who may recover for injuries suffered from maritime torts include stevedores, slot machine attendants in a riverboat casino, passengers, invitees, and licensees on vessels. If the tort which is the basis of a suit in admiralty is maritime in nature, admiralty jurisdiction lies whether the suit is brought by the person directly injured or by someone else who was damaged by it.