Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. Supp. Admiralty Rule B(1)(b), the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney must sign and file with the complaint an affidavit stating that, to the affiant’s knowledge, or on information and belief, the defendant cannot be found within the district. In such a situation that a defendant cannot be found within the district in which suit is brought, a plaintiff in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. Supp. Admiralty Rule B(1)(a), can obtain issuance of a summons and process to attach the defendant’s tangible or intangible property which includes goods and chattels, or credits and effects in the hands of a garnishee. Attachment can be up to the amount sued for with respect to any in personam admiralty or maritime claim.
In order to get an order for maritime attachment, a plaintiff must show that:
- “it has a valid prima facie admiralty claim against the defendant;
- the defendant cannot be found within the district;
- the defendant’s property may be found within the district; and
- there is no statutory or maritime law bar to the attachment.”[i]
It is not mandatory that the property attached have a direct connection to the claim sued upon; the rule allowing for such attachment is read broadly and only limited to the amount sued for.[ii] In Noble Shipping, Inc. v. Euro-Maritime Chartering, Ltd., 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23008, 23015 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 24, 2003), the court further held that, in maritime actions also, debts owed to a creditor are indisputably property subject to attachment. Therefore, debts owed to the defendant can also be attached even if they have not yet matured or have only partially matured.
In addition to the remedy provided under rule B (1), the plaintiff can invoke state-law remedies for seizure or attachment of person or property for the purpose of securing satisfactory judgment. This preserves the traditional right of a plaintiff in admiralty to acquire jurisdiction over a defendant by bringing in a quasi in rem action.[iii] The plaintiff can invoke the right merely by attaching the defendant’s property within the court’s jurisdiction but not to limit the parties to this remedy where they do not so elect.[iv]
Moreover, jurisdiction over the garnishee-defendant is synonymous with jurisdiction over the debt. Therefore in Engineering Equipment Co. v. S.S. Selene, 446 F. Supp. 706, 708-709 (S.D.N.Y. 1978), the court held that where a court has personal jurisdiction over garnishee defendants, it also has jurisdiction over any indebtedness due by the garnishee defendants to a principal defendant who is not subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction. And so, the indebtedness is accordingly subject to a writ of garnishment pursuant to federal admiralty rules of procedure.
[i] Tradhol Internacional, S.A. v. Colony Sugar Mills Ltd., 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 25526, 25526-25527 (2d Cir. N.Y. Nov. 20, 2009)
[ii] Noble Shipping, Inc. v. Euro-Maritime Chartering, Ltd., 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23008, 23015 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 24, 2003)
[iii] Goudy & Stevens, Inc. v. Cable Marine, Inc., 665 F. Supp. 67, 71 (D. Me. 1987)