Sunday, May 18, 2014

Jerome B. Grubart, Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. case brief summary

  • Jerome B. Grubart, Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. (1995)
    • Great Lakes drove piles into river bed causing a tunnel underneath to leak and the surrounding buildings to flood
    • Issue as to whether a court of the US has admiralty jurisdiction to determine and limit the extent of Great Lakes’s tort liability
    • Traditional test for admiralty tort jurisdiction is whether the tort occurred on navigable waters
      • Extension of Admiralty Jurisdiction Act:
        • The admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the US extends to and includes cases of injury or damage, to person or property, caused by a vessel on navigable waters, even though the injury or damage is done or consummated on land
    • Executive Jet è claims arising from airplane accidents are not cognizable in admiralty despite the location of the harm, unless the wrong bears a significant relationship to traditional maritime activity
    • Foremost è held that a collision of pleasure boats was within admiralty jurisdiction – jurisdiction exists only if the wrong had a significant connection with traditional maritime activity
      • Court found the connection to maritime activity through the potential disruptive impact upon maritime commerce of a collision between boats on navigable waters
    • Sisson è a fire aboard a pleasure boat burned the boat, adjacent boats, and the marina where it was docked
      • Two part test:
        • (1) The incident causing the harm was of a sort likely to disrupt maritime commercial activity
        • (2) A substantial relationship with traditional maritime activity in the kind of activity from which the incident arose
      • In this case the storage and maintenance of a vessel on navigable waters
  • Test location and connection to traditional maritime activity
  • Test for connection to traditional maritime activity
    • (1) Assess the general features of the type of incident involved to determine whether the incident has a potentially disruptive impact on maritime commerce
    • (2) Whether “the general character” of the activity giving rise to the incident shows a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity
      • The substantial relationship test is satisfied when at least one alleged tortfeasor was engaging in activity substantially related to traditional maritime activity and such activity is claimed to have been a proximate cause of the incident
    • A boat that has been permanently moored or otherwise practically incapable of transportation or movement is not a vessel for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction (Tagliere)

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