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Standards for Determining Applicability of Jurisdiction

To invoke admiralty jurisdiction over a tort claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C.S. § 1333(1), the plaintiff must satisfy two tests: the location test and the connection test.  In applying the location test, the court must determine whether the tort occurred on navigable water or whether injury suffered on land was caused by a vessel on navigable water.  In applying the connection test, the court must assess the general features of the type of incident involved and determine whether the incident has a potentially disruptive impact on maritime commerce; and determine whether the general character of the activity giving rise to the incident shows a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity.[i]

Admiralty jurisdiction exists whenever a petitioner has successfully pleaded all the elements of a tort:

  • that petitioner’s work was in the ship’s service and that the warranty of seaworthiness thereby extended to petitioner;
  • that petitioner was injured by a piece of equipment not reasonably fit for its intended use; and
  • that the piece of equipment was a part of the ship’s equipment or an appurtenant appliance.

Such an unseaworthiness claim necessarily possesses the requisite maritime status or relation, and admiralty jurisdiction exists regardless of the locality of the injury.[ii]

[i] Donnelly v. Slingshot Sports LLC, 605 F. Supp. 2d 613 (D. Del. 2009)

[ii] Gebhard v. S.S. Hawaiian Legislator, 425 F.2d 1303 (9th Cir. Cal. 1970)

Inside Standards for Determining Applicability of Jurisdiction