Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Daniel Ball case brief summary

  • The Daniel Ball, 77 U.S. 999 (1871) – Navigability of rivers/other water bodies
    • Rivers that are navigable in fact must be regarded as public navigable rivers as a matter of law;
    • Rivers are navigable in fact when they are used, or 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 over water.
    • Navigable waters constitute “navigable waters of the United States” when they form 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.
    • QUESTION: So is a river, lake, or stream which is wholly contained within a state considered navigable for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction? Assume that it is “navigable in fact.” No! The water body must be susceptible to use for commerce between states or between a state and a foreign country.
  • The extension of land doctrine has been applied to fixed mineral production platform miles from shore. Workers on the platforms within three miles generally are not entitled to federal WC benefits, and state law generally governs torts occurring on the platforms. On platforms located more than three miles from shore, the result is dictated more by federal legislation than by the application of general maritime jurisprudence.
  • A lake between two or more states may be navigable under The David Ball definition. Across the lake, commerce may be carried on between two states.
  • The overwhelming amount of case law supports the view that present capability of sustaining commerce will suffice for supporting admiralty jurisdiction.
  • Natural and artificial obstructions that effectively prohibit commerce will defeat navigability.
  • At some point a water body can become non-navigable and therefore any occurrence in connection with the non-navigable part will not be a maritime claim.
  • Mere capability without use may support navigability, but the lack of present use may prevent torts occurring on such waters from falling into admiralty.
  • Economic difficulty to profitably use the waters commercially does not prevent a finding of navigability to support admiralty jurisdiction.
  • Seasonable navigability arguably makes the stream navigable at all times.
  • The party contending that the waters are navigable and thus support admiralty jurisdiction may bear the burden of proof on that issue.
  • Certain waters may be excluded by federal statute from treatment by the law as navigable waters.

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