HomeSupreme Court Admiralty Cases2000-

The following are digests and links to Supreme Court opinions concerning admiralty and maritime law issued during 2000 through 2004. 

2000  -  2001  -  2002  -  2003 - 2004




Sprietsma v. Mercury Marine (2002)
December 3, 2002 
Government Regulation: The Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, 46 U.S.C. §§ 4301 et seq., which does not require the installation of propeller guards on recreational boats, does not pre-empt state common-law tort claims based on a failure to install a propeller guard on a motorboat. (See also the Oral Argument transcript and the underlying decision in Rex R. Sprietsma, Administrator of the Estate of Jeanne Sprietsma, Deceased v. Mercury Marine (Sup. Ct. Ill. 2001), which was reversed by this decision.) 

Federal Maritime Commission v. South Carolina State Ports Authority (2002)
May 28, 2002
Government Regulation/Procedure (Sovereign Immunity): State sovereign immunity bars the Federal Maritime Commission from adjudicating a private party's complaint against a non-consenting State. Thus a ship operator may not bring an administrative proceeding against the South Carolina State Ports Authority for alleged violations of the Shipping Act of 1984 as a result of the Authority's refusal to berth ships whose primary purpose is gambling. (See also the Oral Argument Transcript and the underlying decision in South Carolina State Ports Authority v. Federal Maritime Commission (4th Cir. 2001), which was upheld by this decision.)

Chao v. Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc. (2002)
January 9, 2002
Government Regulation/Coast Guard Regulation: Because the Coast Guard has neither affirmatively regulated the working conditions at issue (those of a seaman aboard an uninspected drilling barge), nor asserted comprehensive regulatory jurisdiction over working conditions on uninspected vessels, it has not exercised its authority under §4(b)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 such that OSHA has no jurisdiction to do so. (See also the Oral Argument Transcript and the underlying decision in Mallard Bay Drilling, Inc. v. Herman (5th Cir. 2000), which was reversed by this decision.)

Norfolk Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. v. Garris (2001)
June 4, 2001
Wrongful Death: The general maritime cause of action recognized in Moragne for wrongful death based on unseaworthiness is also available for the negligent breach of a maritime duty of care. (See also the Oral Argument Transcript and the underlying decision in Garris v. Norfolk Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., which was upheld by this decision (4th Cir. 2000).)

New Hampshire v. Maine (2001)
May 29, 2001
Waterways (Boundaries): Judicial estoppel bars New Hampshire from asserting that the Piscataqua River boundary runs along the Maine shore, thus New Hampshire may not claim that the entire river and all of Portsmouth Harbor, including the Portsmouth Shipyard, belongs to New Hampshire. (See also the Oral Argument Transcript.)

Circuit City Stores v. Adam (2001)
March 21, 2001
Arbitration: The Federal Arbitration Act's exclusion of "contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce" is confined to transportation workers, thus arbitration provisions contained in the employment contracts of non-transportation workers will be enforced under the Act. (See also the Oral Argument Transcript.)

Lewis v. Lewis & Clark Marine (2001)
February 21, 2001
Jones Act/Limitation of Liability Act/Admiralty Jurisdiction: Because state courts may adjudicate Jones Act claims against vessel owners so long as the owner's right to seek limitation of liability is protected, the Eighth Circuit erred in reversing the District Court's decision to dissolve its injunction against plaintiff's personal injury law suit in state court pursuant to the "saving to suitors" clause where plaintiff had protected the vessel owner's limitation right by stipulating, inter alia, that he was the sole claimant and that his claim was less than the limitation fund. (See also the  Oral Argument Transcript and the underlying decision in In re Complaint of Lewis & Clark Marine, which was reversed by this decision. (8th Cir. 1999).)

Solid Waste Agency v. Army Corps of Engineers (2001)
January 9, 2001
Waterways (Navigable Waters)/Clean Water Act: 33 CFR §328.3(a)(3), which defines navigable waters to include intrastate waters, "the use, degradation or destruction of which could affect interstate or foreign commerce," as clarified and applied to petitioner's site pursuant to the Migratory Bird Rule, exceeds the authority granted to the Army Corps of Engineers under §404(a) of the Clean Water Act to regulate discharges into "navigable waters." (See also the Oral Argument Transcript.)

United States v. Locke (2000)
March 6, 2000
Oil Pollution Act of 1990 ("OPA 90"): The state of Washington's regulations concerning navigation watch procedures, crew English language skills, crew training and maritime casualty reporting are pre-empted by the comprehensive federal regulatory scheme governing oil tankers established by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 ("OPA 90").

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