Federal and State Jurisdiction for Maritime Claims

The question of jurisdiction- what court or courts have the authority to hear a particular case- is one of the many complexities of admiralty law familiar to maritime lawyers. This is because state and federal courts often share jurisdiction in certain maritime claims. In other claims, a state or federal court may have exclusive jurisdiction. Moreover, the court you choose can have a substantial impact on the remedies that are available. A maritime lawyer can advise you of these considerations and help you decide where you should file your claim.
Concurrent State and Federal Jurisdiction
The United States Constitution grants federal courts jurisdiction over matters that occur while on the ocean or within the navigable waters of the United States. But those who file suit in federal court under the general federal maritime jurisdiction Rear Ended By Company Vehicle are usually not entitled to a trial before a jury. Also, federal courts exercising admiralty jurisdiction do not provide certain types of relief, such an injunction-a court order directing a party to take some action or refrain from some action.
Federal jurisdiction over maritime claims, however, is not exclusive. The Judiciary Act of 1789 allows an aggrieved party to file a maritime claim in the appropriate state court, so long as the laws of that state provide relief for the particular type of dispute. This provision is known as the Saving to Suitors Clause.
Exclusive Federal Common Professional Examination Jurisdiction
Federal and state courts, however, do not share jurisdiction for all admiralty cases. The Saving to Suitors clause traditionally does not apply when a plaintiff brings a claim directly against a piece of property, such as a ship. Claims of this type are exclusively within the jurisdiction of a federal court.
Statutes Creating Additional Maritime Rights
More recently, Congress has created new methods that enable admiralty lawyers to seek relief for their clients in federal court. Some examples would be the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, and the Death on the High Seas Act.
The Jones Act allows a sailor injured aboard a commercial ship to sue his or her employer in federal court for negligence. The Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act sets up a compensation system for dockworkers and other personnel not covered by the Jones Act. The Death on the High Seas Act allows the survivors of a person who dies at sea to seek compensation from the responsible party in federal court. These statutes, however, do not abrogate rights that may exist under state law. Maritime lawyers are well-versed in the applicable state and federal maritime laws and can advise you whether state or federal law affords you the best remedy.

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