Admiralty Extension Act

Kimberly Wald, Attorney, Kelley | Uustal

The Admiralty Extension Act (46 USCA 30101) was passed by Congress in 1948 and effectively extends maritime jurisdiction to situations where a tort begins on or in navigable waters but caused damages or injuries to a person who is on an “extension” of land.  As you may know, in order for a tort or cause of action to fall under admiralty jurisdiction, one of the key elements is the tort must occur on “navigable waters.”  Thus, until the Admiralty Extension Act was passed, if a person was injured while standing a dock, that person would not be able to bring any lawsuit against the owner of the boat that caused their injury and/or death.  Therefore, Congress passed this Act so the “navigability” requirement of a tort action can be satisfied even if the injury occurs on an “extension” of land, as long as the injury or death was caused by a vessel on navigable waters.

            The purpose of the Admiralty Extension Act is explained in Grubart v. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co., 513 U.S. 527 (1995).  “[The] Admiralty Jurisdiction Act was to end concern over sometimes confusing line between land and water, by investing admiralty with jurisdiction over all cases where injury was caused by ship or other vessel on navigable water, even if such injury occurred on land.”  Thus, if a boat or other vessel causes an injury to someone who is on a pier, dock, ramp etc., the Admiralty Extension Act will extend maritime jurisdiction to that individual’s tort claim.  Some examples of “extension of land” include piers, jetties, bridges, ramps, railways running into water, and other structures firmly attached to the land.

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