Navigating Maritime Personal Injury and Death Cases

Navigating Maritime Personal Injury and Death Cases1
By Arthur A. Severance, Esq.2

Recovery for personal injury and death that occurs on or is caused by vessels and at sea is subject to a number of federal maritime statutes and provisions of general maritime law that can be difficult to navigate.3 Causes of action and damages recoverable depend on whether the plaintiff is an employee or a passenger (aka “status”) and/or the location where the injury or death occurs (aka “situs”), and in the case of longshore and harbor workers, both. Thus, in the quintessential maritime slip and fall case, in which a plaintiff falls overboard when walking up a gangway to board a vessel, who can be sued and for what damages varies depending on whether the plaintiff is a passenger on the vessel, a seafarer, or a longshore worker.

The statute of limitations on maritime torts, including the ones discussed herein, is three years from the time of injury or death, unless otherwise noted.4 See 46 U.S.C. § 30106.

Liability under federal maritime law for personal injuries and death to passengers, guests, visitors, and anyone who is not in an employment relationship with the defendant (collectively “Passengers”), while in some respects similar to liability under state law, has some notable differences.

Under federal maritime law,5 Passengers have three basic causes of action for personal injury: (1) a general maritime cause of action for negligence against alleged tortfeasors, and (2) two statutory causes of action against a vessel’s owner, master (aka captain), officers, and even the vessel itself under certain circumstances. Kermarec v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique, 358 U.S. 625, 630 (1959); 46 U.S.C. §§ 30102, 30103.

Passengers also have two statutory causes of action for wrongful death: (1) a state cause of action for deaths that occur within three nautical miles of the coast, and (2) a cause of action under the Death on the High Seas Act, 46 U.S.C. §§ 30301 et seq., for deaths that occur more than three nautical miles from the coast. Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199, 216 (1996).

1. Liability to Passengers for Negligence
Under general maritime law, the elements of a claim of negligence are the same as under state law: duty, breach, causation (both cause in fact and proximate cause), and damages. See, e.g., In re Cooper/T.Smith, 929 F.2d 1073, 1077 (5th Cir. 1991) (per curiam); In re Fun Time Boat Rental & Storage, LLC, 431 F. Supp. 2d 993, 1000 (D. Ariz. 2006).

However, unlike the common law, general maritime law draws no distinction between the duty of care vessel owners owe to invitees and licensees. Instead, vessel owners owe the same duty of reasonable care to everyone that is not employed in service to the vessel. See Kermarec, 358 U.S. at 630. “It is a settled principle of maritime law that a shipowner owes the duty of exercising reasonable care towards those lawfully aboard the vessel,” in other words, to those “who are on board for purposes not inimical to [the vessel owner’s] legitimate interests . . . .” Id. at 630, 632; The Steamboat New World v. King, 57 U.S. 469, 474-75 (1854); In re Catalina Cruises, Inc., 137 F.3d 1422, 1425 (9th Cir. 1998).

Under this rule, courts have held that vessel owners do not owe a duty of care to anyone who takes, boards, or uses a vessel without its owner’s authorization, except not to purposely injure the individual. Garrett v. U.S. Lines, Inc. , 574 F.2d 997, 999 (9th Cir. 1978) (owner not liable for injuries to a passenger who boarded against instructions); In re Group Therapy, Inc., 280 F. Supp. 2d 21, 24 (W.D.N.Y. 2003),6 aff’d in relevant part sub nom. Clementi v. Comm’l Union Ins. Co., 92 Fed. Appx. 826 (2d Cir. 2004); In re S & T Fishing, Inc., 2002 A.M.C. 375, 379 (D. Haw. 2001) (owner not liable for injuries a passenger suffered while boarding without express instruction or permission);7 Royal Ins. Co. of America v. M/Y ANASTASIA, 1997 A.M.C. 2172, 2177 (N.D. Fla. 1997) (finding that a vessel owner would not owe a duty to a trespasser).

In sum, vessel owners owe a duty of reasonable care to Passengers and no duty of care to trespassers, except refraining from purposeful injury.

2. Statutory Liability to Passengers
In addition to the general maritime law cause of action for negligence, Passengers have two statutory causes of action for personal injury. Under the first, a Passenger can sue a vessel owner, the vessel’s master, and the vessel itself for personal injuries caused by a failure to comply with inspection standards or manning requirements or by a known defect in the vessel. 46 U.S.C. § 30102; see id. §§ 3101-4705, 8101-9308. Under the second, anyone can sue a vessel’s “master, mate, engineer or pilot” for personal injuries caused by negligence, willful misconduct, or failure to obey navigation laws. 46 U.S.C. § 30103.

The ability to sue a vessel is one of the unique aspects of maritime law. As discussed below, under federal maritime law many plaintiffs have the right to sue vessels that cause injury or death.8

3. Liability for Wrongful Death
Liability for wrongful death under general maritime law depends where the facts causing death occurred. When deaths are caused within one marine league (aka three nautical miles) of the United States (“territorial waters”), state law supplements federal maritime law to provide a remedy and state wrongful death statutes apply.9 Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199, 216 (1996); see 46 U.S.C. § 30302. Beyond territorial waters (i.e., on the high seas), a “decedent’s spouse, parent, child, or dependent relative” can sue alleged tortfeasors and vessels for pecuniary loss under the Death on the High Seas Act (“DOHSA”), 46 U.S.C. §§ 30301 et seq. (formerly codified at 46 U.S.C. app. §§ 761 et seq.). However, plaintiffs in DOHSA actions cannot recover non-pecuniary damages (i.e., loss of society, loss of consortium, and punitive damages). Id. § 30303.

Seafarers (aka seamen) are individuals who are employed to work on a vessel. They can bring the same general maritime law and statutory claims against third parties as Passengers.10 Against their employers, they have additional remedies. Seafarers have traditionally been treated as a special class entitled to special protection under federal maritime law; they are the “wards of admiralty” due to their particular vulnerability to the perils of the sea, foreign travel, and the vagaries of masters. See Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347, 354 (1995); Isbrandtsen Co. v. Johnson, 343 U.S. 779, 782 (1952).

Unlike the recovery of Passengers, which depends on the place or situs where an individual is injured or killed, recovery as a seafarer, whether under the general maritime law or federal maritime statues “is fundamentally status based . . . .” Chandris, 515 U.S. at 355, 359-360. An individual can recover as a seafarer if he or she has an employment-related connection to a vessel in navigation that is substantial both in terms of duration and nature, regardless where injury or death occurs. Id. at 359-360, 370.

Each of the elements of seafarer status has been heavily litigated. However, there are a few helpful rules of thumb for determining whether an individual may be entitled to recovery as a seafarer: An individual must “contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission . . . .” Id. at 357 (internal citation, quotation, and alteration omitted). Furthermore, the individual must generally spend at least 30% of his or her time on a vessel or an identified fleet of vessels. See id. at 366, 371. A vessel is “in navigation” if it operates on navigable waters. Stanfield v. Shellmaker, Inc., 869 F. 2d 521, 524 (9th Cir. 1989). It remains in navigation even if it is anchored, tied to a dock, or undergoing repairs for a short time, even in drydock, but not if it is undergoing a major renovation or overhaul. Chandris, 343 U.S. at 373-374.

1. The Jones Act
The Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30401 (formerly codified at 46 U.S.C. App. § 688(a)), is the exclusive remedy that a seafarer has against his or her employer for negligence and wrongful death attributable to the employer or the master or crew of the vessel on which the seafarer serves. See id.; Ivy v. Security Barge Lines, Inc., 606 F.2d 524, 534 (5th Cir. 1979). The Jones Act extends the duties and liabilities that employers owe to railroad workers under the Federal Employers Liability Act (“FELA”), 45 U.S.C. §§ 51 et seq., to seafarers, and case law regarding FELA applies to the Jones Act. Miller v. Am. Dredging Co., 510 U.S. 443, 455-56 (1994).

Jones Act claims, unlike most other claims under maritime law, are entitled to jury trials. 46 U.S.C. § 30104. They may be filed in state or federal court. However, if they are filed in state court, they may not be removed to federal court, even where there is diversity of citizenship. Lewis v. Lewis & Clark Marine, Inc., 531 U.S. 438, 455 (2001); see 28 U.S.C. § 1445(a); 46 U.S.C. § 30104.

The Jones Act, like FELA, has a “relaxed,” “featherweight,” or “slightest” causation standard under which a seafarer need only prove that an employer’s negligence played any role, “no matter how small,” in causing the seafarer’s injury. CSX Transp., Inc. v. McBride, 564 U.S. 685, 698 (2011); Gautreaux v. Scurlock Marine, Inc., 107 F.3d 331, 335-36 (5th Cir. 1997); Comeaux v. T.L. James & Co., 702 F.2d 1023, 1024 (5th Cir. 1983).

2. Unseaworthiness
In addition, seafarers have a general maritime law cause of action for unseaworthiness against the owner of a vessel and against the vessel itself in rem. The Osecola, 189 U.S. 158, 175 (1902); In re Hechinger, 890 F.2d 202, 207 (9th Cir. 1989). This cause of action arises because vessel owners have an absolute duty to provide seafarers with seaworthy vessels, meaning that the vessel and its appurtenances, “including the hull, the decks, or the machinery,” must be “reasonably fit for their intended use.” Hechinger, 890 F.2d at 207; Mitchell v. Trawler Racer, Inc., 362 U.S. 539, 549-50 (1960). Vessel owners are strictly liable to seafarers for injury and death caused by the breach of this warranty of seaworthiness. See Mitchell, 362 U.S. at 548.

There is extensive case law regarding what constitutes an unseaworthy condition. Even providing insufficient or improperly trained crewmembers or crewmembers with dangerous propensities to perform a task can constitute an unseaworthy condition for which a vessel owner and the vessel are liable. Boudoin v. Lykes Bros. S.S. Co., 358 U.S. 336, 340 (1995); Comeaux v. T.L. James & Co., 666 F.2d 294, 299 (5th Cir. 1982); Am. Presidential Lines, Ltd. v. Welch, 377 F.2d 501 (9th Cir. 1967).

A claim of unseaworthiness lies in admiralty and, like most admiralty cases, is tried to the bench, rather than a jury. Fitzgerald v. U.S. Lines, 374 U.S. 16, 17 (1963). However, when such a claim is asserted together with a Jones Act claim for the same incident, both claims are tried to a jury. Id. at 21-22.

3. Maintenance, Cure, and Unearned Wages
Seafarers have additional causes of action under general maritime law for maintenance, cure, and unearned wages against their employers and against their vessels in rem if they become ill or are injured while in service to a vessel. The Osceola, 189 U.S. 175, 175 (1903). These causes of action protect ill and injured seafarers from being cast off in foreign ports without the means to care for themselves while they recover. See Atlantic Sounding Co. v. Townsend, 557 U.S. 404, 413 (2009); Gardiner v. Sea-Land Service, Inc., 786 F.2d 943, 946 (9th Cir. 1986). An employer becomes liable for maintenance, cure, and unearned wages when an illness or injury occurs, manifests, or becomes exacerbated. West v. Midland Enters., 227 F.3d 613, 616 (6th Cir. 2000).

Like unseaworthiness, employers are strictly liable for maintenance, cure, and unearned wages. See id. However, unlike unseaworthiness, liability for maintenance, cure, and unearned wages attaches “regardless of whether the seaman’s employment caused the injury or illness.” Id. The obligation to pay unearned wages ends when the current voyage ends. Gardiner, 786 F.2d at 946. The obligation to pay maintenance and cure are coextensive; they end when the seafarer is cured or reaches “maximum cure,” discussed below. See id.; Morales v. Garijak, Inc., 829 F.2d 1355, 1359, 1361 (5th Cir. 1987).

When a seafarer makes a claim for maintenance and cure, the employer may make a reasonable investigation to corroborate the claim before paying it. Morales, 829 F.2d at 1358. If an employer unreasonably withholds maintenance and cure, the seafarer may recover consequential damages, and may even recover attorney’s fees and punitive damages if the employer’s failure to pay is sufficiently egregious. Id. at 1358-59; Atlantic Sounding, 557 U.S. at 417-18.

A claim for maintenance, cure, and unearned wages that stands on its own, like most admiralty cases, is tried to the bench rather than a jury. Fitzgerald v. U.S. Lines, 374 U.S. 16, 17 (1963). However, when a seafarer asserts a claim for maintenance, cure, and unearned wages alongside a Jones Act claim for the same incident, both claims are tried to a jury. Id. at 18.

a. Maintenance
Maintenance is compensation for food and lodging equivalent to what the seafarer receives onboard his or her vessel while the seafarer recovers on shore. Cox v. Dravo Corp., 517 F.2d 620, 623 (3d Cir. 1975) It may be compensation for actual expenses or paid as a per diem. See id. at 622-23. However, a seafarer must actually incur living expenses to recover maintenance. A seafarer that recuperates with relatives can only recover maintenance if he or she can demonstrate that he or she is indebted to them for the associated living expenses. See Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 46, 50 (1948) (maintenance not payable when recovering at parents’ home); Flower v. Nordsee, Inc., 657 F. Supp. 235, 236 (D. Me. 1987) (maintenance payable to cover expenses advanced by relatives following proof of indebtedness to them for it). The amount of maintenance due is a subject of much litigation.

b. Cure
Cure is reimbursement for medical expenses. See Morales v. Garijak, Inc., 829 F.2d 1355, 1359 (5th Cir. 1987). An employer can meet its obligation to pay cure by funding a medical plan for the seafarer. Al-Zawkari v. Am. S.S. Co., 871 F.2d 585, 588 (1989). An employer’s obligation to pay cure (and maintenance, as well as unearned wages, provided the voyage or term of service has not yet ended), extends until the seafarer is cured or reaches “maximum cure” (aka “maximum medical recovery” and “maximum medical improvement”) or the seafarer’s injury is deemed to be incurable or permanent. Farrell Lines v. United States, 336 U.S. 511, 515, 519 (1949); Vella v. Ford, 421 U.S. 1, 5 (1975). A seafarer reaches maximum cure when “further treatment will probably not improve his condition.” Morales, 829 F.2d at 1359. Once maximum cure has been reached, a seafarer is not entitled to recover for purely palliative treatments. Cox v. Dravo Corp., 517 F.2d 620, 627 (3d Cir. 1975). The determination of when maximum cure has been reached is a medical one that must be supported by medical testimony. See Morales, 829 F.2d at 1359.

c. Unearned Wages
In addition to maintenance and cure, a seafarer is entitled to recover any wages he or she would have earned had the seafarer completed the voyage during which the illness or injury occurred. The Osceola, 189 U.S. 158, 175 (1903); Lipscomb v. Foss Maritime Co., 83 F.3d 1106, 1109 (9th Cir. 1996). Wages are “a basic component of an award for maintenance and cure.” Archer v. Trans-American Servs., 834 F.2d 1570, 1574 (11th Cir. 1988); see Lipscomb, 83 F.3d at 1109, n.1. Where a seafarer has contracted to serve for a period of time, rather than a voyage, the seafarer can recover unearned wages to the end of the employment period. Farrell Lines, 336 U.S. at 520-21; see Archer, 834 F.2d at 1575.

Longshore and harbor workers (collectively “Workers”) are individuals who are not seafarers but who are nevertheless employed to work around vessels, such as loading and repairing them. They can bring the same general maritime law and statutory claims against third parties as Passengers and seafarers. Against their employers, Workers have an exclusive statutory remedy, the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (the “LHWCA”), 33 U.S.C. §§ 901 et seq. Recovery under the LHWCA includes medical services and disability and death benefits. Id. §§ 907-09. It may also include attorney’s fees. Id. § 928

The LHWCA has a situs requirement in that it covers injuries and deaths sustained “upon the navigable waters of the United States (including any adjoining pier, wharf, dry dock, terminal, building way, marine railway, or other adjoining area customarily used by an employer in loading, unloading, repairing, dismantling, or building a vessel).” 33 U.S.C. §§ 902(2), 903(a). It also has a status requirement in that it covers injury and death to employees “engaged in maritime employment, including any longshoreman or other person engaged in longshoring operations, and any harbor-worker including a ship repairman, shipbuilder, and ship-breaker” with certain exceptions. 33 U.S.C. §§ 902(2)-(3), 903(a).

There are two different “maritime employment” status tests for employees not specifically enumerated in the statute. Fontenot v. Awi, Inc., 923 F.2d 1127, 1130 (5th Cir. 1991). The first, for Workers injured on navigable waters, is whether the individual has meaningful responsibilities on navigable waters, as opposed to just transiting across them to perform work. Bienvenu v. Texaco, Inc., 164 F.3d 901, 908 (5th Cir. 1999). The second, for Workers injured on shore, is whether their tasks are an integral part of a maritime activity enumerated by the LHWCA. See Ne. Marine Terminal Co. v. Caputo, 432 U.S. 249, 271 (1977); Herb’s Welding, Inc. v. Gray, 470 U.S. 414, 423-24 (1985); Coloma v. Dir. OWCP, 897 F.2d 394, 399-400 (9th Cir. 1990).

The LHWCA is a Worker’s exclusive remedy against his or her employer. 33 U.S.C. §§ 902(2), 905(a). Employers are strictly liable for covered injuries and deaths under the LHWCA regardless of fault. Id. § 904(b). “[T]he Jones Act and the LHWCA are mutually exclusive compensation regimes,” as the LHWCA specifically excludes masters and crewmembers from its coverage. 33 U.S.C. § 902(3)(g); Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347, 355-56 (1995). Nevertheless, employees whose status is unclear can, and frequently do, pursue recovery under both regimes and even state workers compensation statutes until a binding legal determination regarding status is made in one of the proceedings. See id. at 356; Sw. Marine, Inc. v. Gizoni, 502 U.S. 81, 91-92 (1991).

The LHWCA permits Workers to bring negligence claims against vessels, as well as their owners, operators, masters, and crewmembers, that cause injury or death, but precludes Workers from asserting claims for unseaworthiness or any other claims against them. 33 U.S.C. §§ 902(21), 905(b). The LHWCA prohibits such vessel interests from seeking indemnity for such claims from the Workers’ employers and fellow employees, thereby protecting them from such liability. See id. § 905(b).

A Worker must give his or her employer notice of a claim under the LHWCA within thirty (30) days of sustaining an injury or become aware or should have become aware that the injury is related to his or her employment. Id. § 912(a). Claims under the LHWCA must be filed within one year of injury or death. Id. § 913(a). Unlike the Passenger and seafarer claims discussed in the preceding sections, which are filed in court, claims under the LHWCA are filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. Id. § 919.

This primer has only presented an outline of maritime personal injury and death claims in the United States. There are a number of excellent secondary sources available to guide further research on the subject. The following list is by no means exhaustive; it is only meant to help practitioners get started. Most of the following publications can be found in the libraries of federal courthouses.

Charles M. Davis, Maritime Law Deskbook (2016 ed.) (a handy desk reference on U.S. admiralty and maritime law)

Erastus C. Benedict et al., Benedict on Admiralty (the standard, multi-volume work on U.S. admiralty and maritime law; volumes 1A, 1B, and 10 cover the topics discussed herein)

Grant Gilmore & Charles L. Black Jr., The Law of Admiralty (2d ed. 1975) (the standard hornbook on U.S. admiralty and maritime law of its time; particularly good for historical information)

Robert Force & Martin J. Norris, The Law of Maritime Personal Injuries (5th ed. 2004) (a two-volume work covering the topics discussed herein)

Robert Force & Martin J. Norris, The Law of Seamen (5th ed. 2015) (multi-volume, in-depth coverage of the topics discussed herein)

Thomas J. Schoenbaum & Jessica L. McClellan, Admiralty and Maritime Law (5th ed. 2012) (the current standard hornbook on U.S. admiralty and maritime law)

U.S. Dep’t of Labor, Office of Admin. L. JJ., Judges’ Benchbook: Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (2002 ed.), (follow Judges’ Benchbook link) (an excellent resource when pursuing LHWCA claims)

1A draft of this article was originally presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the State Bar of California in support of a panel discussion by the same title. The presenters, Gerald L. Gorman, Esq., Neil S. Lerner, Esq., and Michael W. McLeod, Esq., are all members of its Admiralty and Maritime Law Advisory Commission and are all certified as specialists in admiralty and maritime law by the Board of Legal Specialization. Mike McLeod is the vice-chair of the Commission. Many thanks to each of them, in particular to Jerry Gorman, for their insightful input and support in preparing this article.
2Art Severance is a member of the State Bar of California and is certified as a specialist in admiralty and maritime law by the Board of Legal Specialization. He is the chair of its Admiralty and Maritime Law Advisory Commission. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado, Boulder (B.A. 1991), California Western School of Law (J.D. 2006), and Tulane University Law School (LL.M., in admiralty and maritime law, 2007). He is Corporate Counsel for Coastal Villages Region Fund, a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization that harvests and processes fish, primarily pollock, cod, and crab from the Bering Sea. Coastal Villages is the only Western Alaska Community Development Quota entity under the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1855(i), that owns and operates its own fleet of fishing vessels. The income from that fleet fosters economic development in Coastal Villages’ twenty rural Alaskan member communities.
3In this primer, “general maritime law” is used to refer to the uncodified, common maritime law of the United States, and “federal maritime law” is used to refer to both that law and federal maritime statues.
4In Jones Act cases, the three year statute of limitations under the Federal Employers Liability Act (“FELA”), 45 U.S.C. § 56, may apply. Charles M. Davis, Maritime Law Deskbook § VII.T.(2) at 293 (2016). There is some dispute among courts whether the three-year statute of limitations or the doctrine of laches applies to maintenance and cure claims. See Huseman v. Icicle Seafoods, Inc., 471 F.3d 1116, 1125-26 (9th Cir. 2006) (referring to the dispute and holding that the doctrine of laches applies); Davis, § VII.T(3) at 294 (noting the dispute); Thomas J. Schoenbaum & Jessica L. McClellan, Admiralty and Maritime Law § 4-36 at 357 (5th ed. 2012) (stating that laches applies).
5Whether recovery is determined by federal maritime law depends on whether a federal court sitting in admiralty would have jurisdiction. It is well established that “[w]ith admiralty jurisdiction comes the application of substantive admiralty law.” East River Steamship Co. v. TransAmerica DeLeval, Inc., 476 U.S. 858, 873 (1986); Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199, 206 (1996); Jerome B. Grubart, Inc. v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 513 U.S. 527, 545 (1995). Even when a state court hears a case over which a Federal court would have admiralty jurisdiction, the state court “must determine the rights of the parties under the maritime law . . . .” Itagliata v. Shipowners & Merchants Towboat Co., 26 Cal. 2d 365, 371 (1945), reh’g denied, citing Carlisle Packing Co. v. Sandanger, 259 U.S. 255, 259 (1922); see also Wells v. Liddy, 186 F.3d 505, 524 (4th Cir. 1999). Therefore, Passenger recovery is determined by federal maritime law when a federal court would have admiralty jurisdiction, even in a state court proceeding.
In turn, the issue of whether a federal court would have admiralty jurisdiction depends, among other factors, on where the injury or death at issue was caused. A federal court has admiralty jurisdiction, and federal maritime law applies, when (1) “the tort occurred on navigable water or . . . was caused by a vessel on navigable water,” (2) “the general features of the type of incident involved” are such that “the incident has a potentially disruptive impact on maritime commerce,” and (3) “the general character of the activity giving rise to the incident shows a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity. In re Mission Bay Jet Sports, LLC, 570 F.3d 1124, 1130 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal citations and quotations omitted). “Navigable waters” in this context are waters upon which, in their natural state, vessels can travel in interstate commerce. The Daniel Ball, 77 U.S. 557, 563 (1871); Davis v. United States, 185 F.2d 938, 942 (9th Cir. 1950). They include waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, many rivers, and lakes that straddle state and national boundaries. See The Daniel Ball, 77 U.S. at 563; Davis, 185 F.2d at 942-43.
6The citation 280 F. Supp. 2d 21 refers to both the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation and the District Judge’s opinion adopting the Report and Recommendation.
7A.M.C. refers to American Maritime Cases, a multi-volume reporter that has published maritime cases for almost 100 years and has been cited and recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court. Sea-Land Services, Inc. v. Gaudet, 414 U.S. 573 (1974). It can be found in the libraries of many federal courthouses and on LexisNexis.
8A detailed discussion of how a plaintiff actually hales a vessel into court to answer for such liability is beyond the scope of this primer. However, it generally involves arresting the vessel under Rule C of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions.
9The circumstances under which state law can supplement federal maritime law are beyond the scope of this primer. Generally speaking, state law supplements federal maritime law where it does not conflict with federal maritime law or create problems of uniformity. E.g., Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. v. Calhoun, 516 U.S. 199, 207 (1996).
10Traditionally, seafarers have not been able to maintain claims against masters or fellow crewmembers. Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347, 354 (1995). However, one court has very recently held that, following a change created through recodification in 2006, the language of one of the statutes, 46 U.S.C. § 30103, permits seafarers to bring negligence claims against masters, mates, engineers, and pilots. Bobola v. F/V Expectation, No. 1:16-cv-10664-FDS, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 119126, slip op. at 11-12 (D. Mass. Sept. 2, 2016).


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