Questions Concerning the Uniformity of Admiralty Law Continue to Arise


Since the very first Judiciary Act in 1789, litigants have had the right to sue in

state, as distinguished from federal, court on admiralty and maritime claims.

The federal courts have always retained exclusive jurisdiction over procedures

that are unique to admiralty, such as the right to enforce a maritime lien by

arresting the vessel herself, or limiting liability to the value of the ship at the

end of the voyage. All other maritime claims may be pursued in either the

federal or state courts. If a matter such as a crewman's injury proceeds in state

court, the state court judge and jury are to decide the matter under federal

substantive law, with the state rules of procedure governing. As one might

imagine, courts and litigants have struggled with this distinction between

substance and procedure for more than 200 years.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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