The following are digests and links to Supreme
Court opinions concerning admiralty and maritime law issued during the
period 1990 through 1999.
1990 - 1991
- 1994 - 1995 - 1996
- 1997 - 1998
v. Universal Maritime Service Co., 525 U.S. 70 (1998)
Labor Law: the relevant collective
bargaining agreement's general arbitration clause does not require longshoreman
Wright to use the arbitration procedure for an alleged violation of the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
v. Korean Air Lines Co., 524 U.S. 116 (1998)
Death on the High Seas Act ("DOHSA"):
Congress has chosen not to authorize a survival action for a decedent's
pre-death pain and suffering in a case of death on the high seas, there
can be no general maritime survival action for such damages.
v. Deep Sea Research, Inc., 523 U.S. 491 (1998)
Admiralty Jurisdiction/Procedure (State
Sovereign Immunity): the Eleventh Amendment does not bar a federal
court's jurisdiction over an
in rem admiralty action where the res
is not within the State's possession;
Abandoned Shipwreck Act ("ASA"):
since the the lower courts' conclusion that the vessel was not abandoned
for ASA purposes was influenced by the assumption that the Eleventh Amendment
was relevant to the courts' inquiry, the case is remanded for reconsideration
of the abandonment issue, with the clarification that the meaning of "abandoned"
under the ASA conforms with its meaning under admiralty law.
Fishing Co. v. J. M. Martinac & Co., 520 U.S. 875 (1997)
Products Liability: East River
S. S. Corp. v. Transamerica Delaval Inc., 476 U.S. 858, held that an
admiralty tort plaintiff cannot recover for the physical damage a defective
product causes to the "product itself," but can recover for physical damage
the product causes to "other property"; equipment added to the vessel in
this case by the initial owner before he sold the vessel is "other property,"
not part of the product that itself caused physical harm, thus the present
owner can recover for damage to the added equipment.
Tug & Barge Co. v. Papai Et Ux., 520 U.S. 548 (1997)
Jones Act: an important part of the
test for determining who is a seaman is whether the injured worker has
a substantial connection to a vessel or to a fleet of vessels, and the
latter concept requires a requisite degree of common ownership or control;
the requisite link is not established by the mere use of the same hiring
hall which draws from the same pool of employees when the various vessels
on which Plaintiff worked through the hiring hall were not linked by any
common ownership or control.
v. United States, 517 U.S. 654 (1996)
Suits in Admiralty Act: the Suits
in Admiralty Act's "forthwith" instruction for service of process has been
superseded by Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which sets
an extendable 120 day period for service of process.
Co., U.S.A. v. Sofec, Inc., 516 U.S. 1156 (1996)
Proximate Cause (Superseding Cause): a
plaintiff in admiralty that is the superseding, and thus the sole proximate,
cause of its own injury cannot recover part of its damages under the comparative
fault principle of
United States v. Reliable Transfer, 421 U.S.
397, from tort feasors or contracting partners whose blameworthy actions
or breaches were causes in fact of the plaintiff's injury.
v. Korean Airlines Co. Ltd., 516 U.S. 217 (1996)
Death on the High Seas Act ("DOHSA"):
a suit brought under Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention, a plaintiff may
not recover loss of society damages for the death of a relative in a plane
crash on the high seas, within the meaning of DOHSA.
Motor Corp., U. S. A., v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199 (1996)
Wrongful Death: in maritime wrongful
death cases in which no federal statute specifies the appropriate relief,
and the decedent was not a seaman, longshore worker, or person otherwise
engaged in a maritime trade, state remedies remain applicable and have
not been displaced by the wrongful death action recognized in Moragne
v. States Marine Lines, Inc., 398 U.S. 375.
Seguros y Reaseguros, S. A. v. M/V Sky Reefer, 515 U.S. 528 (1995)
Carriage of Goods by Sea Act ("COGSA"):
does not nullify foreign arbitration clauses contained in maritime bills
Inc. v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347 (1995)
Jones Act: the "employment related
connection to a vessel in navigation" necessary for seaman status comprises
two basic elements: (1) the worker's duties must contribute to the function
of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission and (2) the worker
must have a connection to a vessel in navigation (or an identifiable group
of vessels) that is substantial in both its duration and its nature. Jury
Trials: whether a vessel is in navigation is a fact intensive question
that can be removed from the jury's consideration only where the facts
and the law will reasonably support one conclusion.
of Milwaukee v. Cement Div., Nat'l Gypsum Co., 515 U.S. 189 (1995)
Procedure (Prejudgment Interest): neither
a good faith dispute over liability nor the existence of mutual fault justifies
the denial of prejudgment interest in an admiralty collision case.
B. Grubart, Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 513 U.S. 527
Admiralty Jurisdiction: the District
Court had federal admiralty jurisdiction over Great Lakes's Limitation
of Liability Act suit that arose from flooding on the Chicago River that
resulted from damage to an underwater structure in the River caused by
a construction barge, a vessel, that had driven piles into the river bed
several months earlier.
v. Birkdale Shipping Co., S. A., 512 U.S. 92 (1994)
Longshore & Harbor Workers' Act: a
vessel's turnover duty to warn of latent defects in the cargo stow is narrow
and attaches only to hazards that are not known to the stevedore and that
would be neither obvious to, nor anticipated by, a skilled stevedore in
the competent performance of its work.
Inc. v. AmClyde, 511 U.S. 202 (1994)
Settlement Agreements/Damages: a nonsettling
defendant's liability should be calculated with reference to the jury's
allocation of proportionate responsibility, not by giving the nonsettling
defendant credit for the dollar amount of the settlement.
Dredging v. Miller, 510 U.S. 443 (1994)
Procedure (Forum Non Conveniens):in
admiralty cases filed in state court under the Jones Act and the "saving
to suitors clause," federal law does not pre-empt state law regarding the
doctrine of forum non conveniens.
Corp. v. Central Gulf Lines, Inc., 500 U.S. 603 (1991)
Admiralty Jurisdiction: because there
is no per se exception of agency contracts from admiralty jurisdiction,
v. Maynard, 17 How. 477, in which an agent who had advanced funds for
repairs and supplies necessary for a vessel was barred from bringing a
claim in admiralty against the vessel's owners, is overruled; admiralty
jurisdiction thus extends to Exxon's claim regarding the delivery of fuel
in Jeddah where Exxon acted as Waterman's agent in procuring fuel from
a local supplier; Maritime Liens: the Court expressed no view on
whether Exxon was entitled to a maritime lien under the Federal Maritime
Lien Act and left that issue to be decided on remand.
International, Inc. v. Wilander, 498 U.S. 337 (1991)
Jones Act: one need not aid in the
navigation of a vessel in order to qualify as a "seaman" under the Jones
v. Apex Marine Corp., 498 U.S. 19 (1990)
Wrongful Death: the reasoning of Moragne
v. States Marine Lines, Inc., 398 U.S. 375, which created a general
maritime wrongful death cause of action, extends to suits for the death
of true seamen despite the fact that Moragne involved a longshoreman, thus
there is a general maritime cause of action for the wrongful death of a
seaman; damages recoverable in a general maritime cause of action for the
wrongful death of a seaman do not include loss of society; a general maritime
survival action cannot include recovery for decedent's lost future earnings.
v. Ruby, 497 U.S. 358 (1990)
Admiralty Jurisdiction/Limitation of Liability
Act: the District Court has jurisdiction over Sisson's limitation of
liability action that arose from a fire aboard Sisson's pleasure yacht
while it was docked at a Lake Michigan marina, destroying the yacht and
damaging several neighboring vessels and the marina; admiralty jurisdiction
is appropriate when a potential hazard to maritime commerce arises out
of an activity that bears a substantial relationship to traditional maritime