Sunday, May 18, 2014

LeBlanc v. Cleveland case brief summary

LeBlanc v. Cleveland (1999)
                      LeBlanc and Ossen suffered personal injuries when their kayak was struck by a recreational vehicle on the Hudson River operated by Cleveland and owned by Grant
                      LeBlanc and Ossen sued Grant and Cleveland invoking federal admiralty jurisdiction
                      A waterway at the situs in issue is navigable for jurisdictional purposes if it is presently used, or is presently capable of being used, as an interstate highway for commercial trade or travel in the customary modes of travel on water
                      Interstate commerce requirement - waters must be able to be used in foreign commerce
                      Hudson River is navigable but this accident took place where there was no outlet to the ocean or to another state because dams that had been built and there are waterfalls
                      Before the dams were built, this river was fully navigable
                      Daniel Ball calls for ordinary condition as highways of commerce
                      Test to use is present capability of use as a highway of commerce but with artificial obstructions there is no capability of use

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  • LeBlanc v. Cleveland (2nd Circuit, 1999)
    • LeBlanc (kayak) was in a collision with Cleveland (motor boat) on the Hudson
    • Navigable waters definition per The Daniel Ball (1870)
      • Those rivers must be regarded as public navigable rivers in law which are navigable in fact.  And they are navigable in fact when they are used, or are susceptible of being used, in their ordinary condition, as highways for commerce, over which trade and travel are or may be conducted in the customary modes of trade and travel on water. And they constitute navigable waters of the US within the meaning of the acts of Congress, in contradistinction from the navigable waters of the States, when they form in their ordinary condition by themselves, or by uniting with other waters, a continued highway over which commerce is or may be carried on with other States or foreign countries in the customary modes in which such commerce is conducted by water. (Accepted test)
    • A waterway at the situs in issue is navigable for jurisdictional purposes if it is presently used, or is presently capable of being used, as an interstate highway for commercial trade or travel in the customary modes of travel on water.  Natural and artificial obstructions that effectively prohibit such commerce defeat admiralty jurisdiction.  Navigability requires that the body of water be capable of supporting commercial maritime activity.
    • Seasonal non-navigability however will not defeat admiralty jurisdiction
  • The test for navigability will be different in different contexts; the test is no longer governed by the test of the ebb and flow of the tide
  • Basic test:
    • Whether the waters have some interstate or foreign component to them; a body of water with some type of outlet (not completely land locked) that allows for an interstate and foreign requirement
    • Example: if a large body of water is landlocked within a state alone but does have large commerce activity for the state, this is not admiralty jurisdiction. In contrast, if a body of water has an outlet for interstate commerce but really is never used for commerce, it would still have admiralty jurisdiction

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