The limits placed on a state’s ability to exercise jurisdiciton over a non-resident defendant does not apply to a federal admiralty court sitting in that particular state. [i] An admiralty or maritime claim under Rule 9(h) is not a civil action and hence the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure pertaining to jurisdiction and venue does not apply to a maritime claim. According to 28 USCS § 1404, a district court has discretion to transfer the venue of any civil action for the convenience of parties and in the interest of justice.[ii]
Courts in admiralty are established for the settlement of disputes between persons engaged in commerce and navigation. Admiralty cases does not fit into the conventional jurisdiction and venue parameters because the vessels involved in the controversy may be in a different port and the owner may be residing somewhere else. In such a scenario, courts permit claimants in admiralty cases to seek redress in districts where the ship owner’s goods or credits can be found in order to protect the “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”
The need for special procedures in admiralty is inevitable since compelling the claimant to resort to the home of the defendant, and preventing the claimant from suing the defendant in any district in which he/she might be served with a summons or his/her goods or credits attached, would result in inordinate delay, inconvenience, and expense, and eventually may lead to a denial of justice. Thus courts have held that “because the perpetrators of maritime injury are likely to be peripatetic . . . maritime actors must reasonably expect to be sued where their property may be found.” [iii]
[i] Trans-Asiatic Oil, Ltd. S.A. v. Apex Oil Co., 743 F.2d 956 (1st Cir. P.R. 1984)
[ii] Paco Tankers, Inc. v. Atlantic Land & Improv. Co., 108 F. Supp. 406 (D. Fla. 1952)
[iii] Amoco Overseas Oil v. Compagnie Nationale Algerienne, 605 F.2d 648, 655 (2d Cir. 1979).