The Admiral Peoples, USSC 1935 (no longer applicable because of the Admiralty Extension Act)
Facts: A steamship on its way from California to Oregon. When people were
disembarking from the ship from a gangway, a woman trips and falls. She files a libel in rem against the vessel for her injuries. The woman wants to claim admiralty jurisdiction because you can only sue in rem in federal court and not in state court. The defense wanted to dismiss the claim for lack of admiralty jurisdiction. If the fall occurred on the land then it would not be considered an admiralty claim. The old rule of the Plymouth was that for there to be an admiralty tort it must be perpetrated on navigable waters and the injury must be sustained on the navigable waters.
Issue: Whether or not there is admiralty jurisdiction based on the location of the injury.
Rule: The tort occurs at the moment of the beginning of the injury; where the plaintiff
was originally impacted. If at the moment that the injury begins the person is on the ship or the gangplank of the ship then the tort is considered in admiralty.
§ The injury could be exacerbated by the contact with the ground but that is just the scope of the injury and not the injury itself. The injury itself began while on board the ship and therefore the court accorded under admiralty jurisdiction.
· If the plaintiff is impacted while on navigable waters then it is a maritime tort; if the plaintiff is impacted while on the land then it is not a maritime tort.
Reasoning: The court says that this is not a typical case but one that is pushing admiralty
jurisdiction to the limit.
Other Hypos: Longshoreman hit on the head by something while on the ship and fall out
of the ship. This would be a maritime tort because the injury occurs on the ship. If the man falls on the dock it is still a maritime tort because the injury occurred first on the ship. After the admiralty extension act, the court will find admiralty tort even if the man is injured while on the dock from some faculty of the ship.
The Admiralty Extension Act 46 U.S.C.A. 30101 (2007)
Note: The Purpose of the Admiralty Extension Act
· The Admiralty Extension Act modified the locality requirement for tort cases in admiralty. It changed the artificial line between land and water. When a vessel is in navigable waters and causes injury or death on land then there is admiralty jurisdiction.
o “The admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the US shall extend to and include all cases of damage or injury, to person or property, caused by a vessel on navigable water, notwithstanding that such damage or injury be done or consummated on land.”
· Why did Congress enact the extension Act?
o To resolve a particular problem of damages to bridges (such as a railroad bridge) that causes injury. In admiralty law contributory fault is proportional but in common law there is an absolute bar to recovery for contributory fault. Therefore an admiralty action will allow for recovery even with contributory negligence.
· There are now 2 test for admiralty jurisdiction
o 1) Did the injury take place on navigable waters?
o 2) Did the injury take place as a result of the action of a ship on navigable waters even if the impact of the injury occurred on land?