De Lovio v Boit case brief summary
US court for the District of Massachusetts, 1815
- L’Esperanza was slaving ship owned by De Lovio. It had a Spanish flag and was set out to West Africa and then back to Cuba. The ship left in 1812.
- De Lovio’s agent in the US secured insurance in Boston that covered the voyage.
- Slavery was a crime on the high seas to Great Britain and the US.
- The Ship was seized by a British warship in June.
- When De Lovio made his claim to the insurer, the underwriters had substantive defenses to paying, such as fraud and illegality. The underwriters moved to dismiss De Lovio’s action in admiralty for lack of jurisdiction.
- What is the true nature and extent of the ancient jurisdiction of the admiralty
- How far it has been abridged or altered by statutes or by common law decisions.
- What causes are included in the delegation by the Constitution to the judicial power of the US of all cases of “admiralty and maritime jurisdiction”
- Admiralty and maritime jurisdiction include jurisdiction of all things done upon and relating to the sea, in other words, all transactions and proceedings relative to commerce and navigation, and to damages or injuries upon the sea.
- Admiralty jurisdiction: jurisdiction over maritime contracts and concerns. However in the US constitution the word “maritime” is also added.
- Maritime jurisdiction: includes all maritime contracts, torts and injuries, which are in the understanding of the common law, as well as of the admiralty.
- Neither the judicial act nor the constitution limit admiralty jurisdiction in any respect to place (locality). It is bounded only be the nature of the cause, over which it is to decide.
- The language of the Constitution will warrant the most liberal interpretation, and it may not be unfit to hold that it had reference to that maritime jurisdiction which commercial convenience, public policy, and national rights have contributed to establish.
- There is no solid reason for construing the terms of the constitution in a narrow and limited sense of the English statutes.
- The advantage resulting to the commerce and navigation of the US, from a uniformity of rules and decisions in all maritime questions, authorize us to believe that national policy, as well as juridical logic, require the clause of the constitution to be so construed as to embrace all maritime contracts, torts and injuries, or in other words, to embrace all those causes which originally and inherently belonged to the admiralty, before any statutable restriction.
- The delegation of cognizance of “all civil cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction” to the court of the US comprehends all maritime contracts, torts and injuries.
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