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The Role of State Law in Admiralty Actions

In the absence of a federal statute, state law will control a judicially fashioned admiralty rule, or a need for uniformity in admiralty practice.  The general rule on preemption in admiralty is that states may supplement federal admiralty law as applied to matters of local concern, so long as state law does not actually conflict with federal law or interfere with the uniform working of the maritime legal system.[i]

State law may supplement maritime law when maritime law is silent or where a local matter is at issue.[ii]  State law is admissible to modify or supplement admiralty and maritime law only when the state action is not hostile to characteristic features of the maritime law.[iii]

[i] Stanton v. Bayliner Marine Corp., 123 Wn.2d 64 (Wash. 1993)

[ii] Stuto v. Coastal Dry Dock & Repair Corp., 153 A.D.2d 937 (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dep’t 1989)

[iii] Wilburn Boat Co. v. Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co., 201 F.2d 833 (5th Cir. Tex. 1953)

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