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Identification of Actions as Civil or Admiralty

Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(h) operates as “an identification mechanism” through which a plaintiff can designate his/her claim as within the admiralty jurisdiction of the federal courts.  By declining to invoke Rule 9(h), a plaintiff can choose to proceed under the rules and procedures applicable to civil actions.  Moreover, the choice to designate a claim as an admiralty claim requires an affirmative statement.  If that statement is not made, the rules regarding civil actions, and not those governing admiralty actions, should apply.[i]

However, there is no right to a jury trial where the complaint contains a statement identifying the claim as an admiralty or maritime claim, even though diversity jurisdiction exists as well.  Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(h) makes clear that Fed. R. Civ. P. 38(e) denies a right to trial by jury on any claim that is cognizable only in admiralty, regardless of what the pleading says.[ii]

[i] Lewis v. United States, 812 F. Supp. 620 (E.D. Va. 1993)

[ii] Webb v. Ensco Marine Co., 121 F. Supp. 2d 1049 (E.D. Tex. 2000)

Inside Identification of Actions as Civil or Admiralty