Admiralty jurisdiction does not reach injuries to a tort action that relates to land based parties and structure attached to land.[i] Similarly, wharves; docks; piers; bridges are only considered as extensions of the land and not as vessels.
Therefore, admiralty has no jurisdiction of a tort that occurs on a dock, a dry dock, a wharf, or any other extension of the land. However, structure attached to the land along the shores of navigable waters are not considered as extensions of the land and thus are subject to admiralty jurisdiction.
In order for a tort to be maritime, the tort must have a maritime situs. If the place of the injury occurs upon navigable waters, even the fact that the negligent act may have occurred on shore is of no relevance to the situs requirement.[ii]
In O’Hara’s Case, 248 Mass. 31 (Mass. 1924), it was observed that a dry dock designed to receive vessels floating in navigable waters is considered as a part of navigable waters and subject to admiralty jurisdiction.
In Diaz v. United States, 655 F. Supp. 411 (E.D. Va. 1987), plaintiff, a business owner, instituted an action against the defendants-federal government and a maintenance corporation, for the recovery of injury he sustained when he fell on a ship. The court found that the fact that the business owner was injured on a ship did not necessarily dictate the application of admiralty jurisdiction. Other factors were to be considered.
[i] Kohlasch v. New York State Thruway Authority, 460 F. Supp. 956 (S.D.N.Y. 1978)
[ii] Taylor v. Kennedy Engine, Inc., 861 F.2d 127 (5th Cir. La. 1988)