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General Maritime Law in Admiralty Actions

General maritime law, where not previously developed, is determined by judicial analysis of congressional enactments in the field of maritime law, relevant state legislation and state common law.  The court must consider federal legislation and common law from all the sources, along with the forum state.  Thus, the general maritime law is an amalgam of traditional common-law rules, modifications of those rules, and newly created rules.  In the absence of a statute, maritime law is “developed by the judiciary.”[i]

A court may apply state law in a maritime action where there is no admiralty rule on point, so long as application of the law:

  • would not impair the uniformity and simplicity which is a basic principle of the federal admiralty law, or
  • would not defeat an otherwise meritorious maritime cause of action.[ii]

[i] Williams v. Carnival Cruise Lines, 907 F. Supp. 403 (S.D. Fla. 1995)

[ii] Szollosy v. Hyatt Corp., 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19594 (D. Conn. June 6, 2002)

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