Monday, May 19, 2014

Jerome B. Grubart v. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company case brief summary

Jerome B. Grubart v. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company, USSC 1995

Facts: City of Chicago hired a company to replace some pilings which when replaced
caused flooding in the city. The court analyzes the trilogy cases. The injuries were sustained on land in this case so it becomes and admiralty extension act case. They must show that the vessel on navigable waters proximately caused the damage.

Issue: Whether there is admiralty jurisdiction to determine the limit and extent of Great
Lakes Dredge liability?

Holding: The court rejects the super causation rule and applies the Sisson Test.

First Prong: A court must assess the general features of the type of incident
involved to determine whether such an incident is likely to disrupt commercial activity. The description of the incident must be described at an intermediate level of possible generality.
-Here there is not need to establish the intermediate level because
the river was closed for a month and there was an obvious disrupt of commercial activity.

Second Prong: Determine whether the “general character” of the activity giving
rise to the incident shows a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity. A traditional activity infers historic reference. Analyze what activity the person was engaged in not what they were actually doing to cause the incident.
-Here the activity was maintenance work on a navigable waterway
performed from a vessel (clearly a traditional maritime activity).

Kelly Factors: Rejects the Kelly factors because they are not very helpful, very easy to apply, and they don’t think that they are any better then what has evolved through the trilogy of cases. So, it is wrong to cite the Kelly factors to the court. DO NOT APPLY THESE FACTORS ON THE EXAM BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN REJECTED BY THE SUPREME COURT.

***If you have a situation involving the use of vessels on navigable waters and someone
is claiming injury or property damage because of a tort the odds are is that you are going to find admiralty jurisdiction. On the exam, you need to go through the Sisson analysis. You may need to determine whether the body of the water is navigable, whether or not the structure is a ship, etc.

When the Admiralty Extension Act Applies: There the locus test that applies is (1) that the
defendant vessel must be in navigable waters and (2) the defendant vessel must cause damage on land. A lot of courts assume that the nexus test applies as well as this locus. Can you make an argument that the nexus test should not be applied? Congress has spoken and built in its own nexus test that the vessel must be in navigable waters and caused damage on the land. This won’t create situations that would create extravagant cases because it is limited in scope by a vessel in navigable waters and one could argue that this is enough. When we apply the Death on the High Seas Act or the Jones Act we don’t apply nexus. So, one could make this argument that the court should not presume to second guess Congress.

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