Admiralty law, also referred to as maritime law, is a body of law, which governs maritime related matters. It is closely related to the operation of ports and terminals, transportation of cargo, and the administrative/law enforcement oversight of customs.
Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution grants original jurisdiction to U.S. federal courts over admiralty and maritime matters. The federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over most admiralty and maritime claims pursuant to the terms of 28 U.S.C. § 1333. Under this statute, federal district courts are granted original jurisdiction over admiralty actions “saving to suitors” a right to sue for most of these actions in state courts. Despite the saving to suitors clause, certain actions must be filed in admiralty in federal court. Those include all in rem maritime actions. This includes suits seeking to arrest ships to enforce maritime mortgages and liens, petitions to limit a ship owner’s liability to the value of a ship after a major accident, and actions seeking to partition ownership of a ship.
The vast majority of maritime actions, such as suits for damage to cargo, injuries to seamen, collisions between vessels, wake damage, and maritime pollution cases may be brought in either state court or federal court by virtue of the saving to suitors clause. A state court hearing an admiralty or maritime case is required to apply the admiralty and maritime law, even if it conflicts with the law of the state, under a doctrine known as the “Reverse-Erie doctrine.” This can make a big difference. For example, U.S. maritime law recognizes the concept of joint and several liability among tortfeasors, while many states do not. Under joint and several liability where two or more people create a single injury or loss, all are equally liable, even if they only contributed a small amount. A state court hearing an admiralty case would be required to apply the doctrine of joint and several liability.
The Carriage of Goods By Sea Act (COGSA) governs claims for damage to a cargo shipped in international commerce. COGSA is the U.S. enactment of the Hague Rules. The statute of limitations on cargo claims is one year.
Disputes arising from interpretation, administration and enforcement codes related to customs and tariffs are always closely watched and analyzed.
The law firm of Raslan and Pla, LLC is located on the banks of Lake Erie. We have successfully represented clients in matters related to Admiralty Law, Ports, Terminals, Transportation, Cargo and Customs in the United States as well as abroad. Contact Raslan & Pla, LLC to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys. Our attorneys are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide you with the legal representation you need.