Sunday, May 18, 2014

DeLovio v. Boit case brief summary

  • DeLovio v. Boit (MA, 1815, Story)
    • Libel suit brought in district court of MA in 1815 upon a policy of insurance that insured a vessel against losses at sea
      • District court dismissed case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
    • “the jurisdiction of the admiralty… extended to all maritime contracts, whether executed at home or abroad, and to all torts, injuries, and offences, on the high seas, and in ports, and havens, as far as the ebb and flow of the tide”
    • Held that insurance contract within admiralty jurisdiction
      • Marine insurance contracts were maritime by subject and therefore within admiralty jurisdiction
      • In contrast to tort jurisdiction which is bounded by locality
    • Note: ship building and ship sale contracts are excluded from admiralty jurisdiction
    • Court determines in 1851 admiralty jurisdiction by deciding whether the tort occurred within public navigable waters where interstate commerce took place. (This is an expansion of the locality test due to public policy)
      • Upheld the Great Lakes Act as constitutional in the Genessee Chief v. Fitzhugh
      • Single remnant of the Great Lakes Act allows for a jury trial in admiralty when one is on the Great Lakes (otherwise fully repealed in The Eagle)
  • Overall, the real admiralty court is the federal district court sitting in admiralty jurisdiction
    • Also, admiralty jurisdiction can exist even though we don’t have a maritime tort or maritime contract (we can have a maritime service such as salvage)
DeLovio v. Boit, 7 Fed. Cas. 418 (C.C.D. Mass. 1815)                            
                  Issue was whether an action on a marine insurance contract fell within the grant of
                  admiralty jurisdiction. The British admiralty courts would have been without jurisdiction
                  over such an action unless the contract itself was executed at sea. 
                  On Appeal: J. Story considered that we look for questions of jurisdiction in maritime
                  cases to England, but he was reluctant to take the English practice because of the fact
                  that the common-law courts and English admiralty courts at the time of the writing
                  of the Constitution were fighting over jurisdiction of wet cases (courts were paid from
                  the proceeds of their cases and didn't want to give up cases, which meant money), where
                  admiralty courts were originally military and metamorphosed into hearing civil
                  maritime cases. The common-law courts got Parliament to forbid some jurisdiction to
                  the admiralty cases (Writs of Prohibition), and the rules were not clear or satisfying to
                  Story. English Admiralty courts were too limited in jurisdiction - not a "natural" type
                  of legal system, since it was a controversy between courts. Story looked instead to the
                  vice-admiralty courts which were set up in the Colonies to hear admiralty cases without
                  juries (juries would rule against England so they were left off of vice-admiralty courts)
                  and thought this was a better model, more natural before the writs of prohibition.
                  Alternatively, we can look to other maritime countries (e.g. Mediterranean) for models.
                  Story was convinced that federal courts should cover all maritime contracts, torts
                  and injuries bounded by location - if it's on the sea, you have maritime jurisdiction - or
                  which "relate to" business or commerce on the sea in subject matter (anything "relating"
                  to the sea, not very specific). This was distinct from the artificial separation which was
                  being developed in the British courts keeping contracts in the common-law courts. And
                  since maritime insurance was part and parcel to commerce on the sea, it fell within
                                    admiralty and maritime jurisdiction and therefore federal jurisdiction.

De Lovio v. Boit
                                                              i.      DL bought insurance from a company in Boston, and his ship was eventually seized in GB.
                                                            ii.      He made a claim on this policy, but they denied him.
                                                          iii.      The DC dismissed the action for a lack of admiralty Jurisdiction
                                                           iv.      Justice Story looks to the Constitution and concentrates on the areas of admiralty and maritime, which he deems the court to have broad coverage over.  He interprets these words liberally. 
                                                             v.      The Court wants the law of admiralty to be broad and uniform. 
                                                           vi.      There are two types of admiralty jurisdiction:
1.      Contract – all contracts, as long as the involve the sea.
2.      Torts – founded by locality; important for us to know where this incident occurred
b.      The Constitution and Congress have granted federal courts Admiralty Jurisdiction through 28 USC 1333.  This is an enabling statute which extends their jurisdiction to admiralty and maritime. 

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