Admiralty Law

There are generally two kinds of Admiralty law firms, those representing injured crew or passengers, and those working for insurance companies. We do not accept cases where negligence, collisions, fire or cargo damage is at issue. Granata Law  is different. We only represent ship owners and operators, normally as Plaintiff counsel, in Admiralty, Contracts and Business Torts.  You need an experienced and knowledgeable Admiralty lawyer if you need to sue in Admiralty or defend an uninsured interest in Admiralty. At Granata Law, we specialize in the areas of law most important to ship owners, Admiralty, Contracts and Business Torts.

Jurisdiction

The Supreme Court narrowed the scope of admiralty law in 1972, when it established a maritime nexus must exist for a tort to proceed in admiralty. A nexus exists where; 1.  The incident takes place on navigable waters, 2.  The injury or damage has a significant relationship with traditional maritime activity and 3. A potentially disruptive effect on maritime commerce.

Generally, removal of jurisdiction from state to federal court by a plaintiff or defendant is barred if the case is solely based on an alleged wrongful or negligent act by a defendant.  In contrast, all actions related to the ship itself must be brought in federal court.

Choice of Law

A state court hearing an admiralty case is required to apply admiralty law, even if it conflicts with the state law. Federal courts hearing cases involving for federal and state issues, must apply state law to the state issues.

Limitation of Liability

This federal law ensures the ability of a ship owner to limit its liability to the value of a ship after an accident. The law applies to all ships on the Great Lakes, rivers and oceans, from vessels as large as Cargo Ships to as small as personal watercraft. State courts hear limitation of liability cases where the value of claim is less than the value of the ship.

Cargo, Charter Parties and Supplier Contracts

A ship owner is generally entitled to limit its liability to $500 per package unless the value of the contents is disclosed and marked on the container. There is significant litigation as to what constitutes a “package” for purposes of determining liability.

Cargo claims must be filed within one year.

Injury to Seamen

Seamen hurt aboard ship have three possible sources of compensation: the principle of maintenance and cure, the doctrine of unseaworthiness, and the Jones Act.

Maintenance and cure requires a ship owner to both pay for an injured seaman’s medical treatment and provide basic living expenses until completion of the voyage, even if the seaman is no longer aboard ship, unless he was injured due to his own willful gross negligence.

Unseaworthiness makes a ship owner liable if a seaman is injured because the ship, or any appliance of the ship, is “unseaworthy,” defective in some way.

The Jones Act allows a sailor to sue the ship owner in tort for injury or death, incorporating FELA which governs injuries to railway workers. The statute of limitations on JA actions is three years.

A seaman must spend 30% of his working hours on board a specific vessel or a fleet of vessels under common ownership or control. Non-seamen hurt over navigable waters are covered instead by the LHWCA.