Admiralty Extension Act

Sometimes a vessel on navigable water can cause damage to persons or structures on land.  For example, a ship could hit a bridge and damage it or people on it.  Or, a worker on a dock could be struck by the bowsprit of a vessel that comes too close.  The Admiralty Extension Act (AEA) will allow those injured to sue the wrongdoer in admiralty.  This can also benefit longshoremen that might be injured while loading, unloading or storing a vessel’s cargo.

The AEA extends the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States to include cases of injury or damage, both to person and to property, caused by a vessel on navigable waters, even though the injury or damage is done or consummated on land.

The AEA can lead to results that might seem surprising.

In a famous case, a company had done some work in 1991 on pilings in the Chicago river.  The next year, the walls or ceiling of a freight tunnel that ran under the river in the area where the work had been done collapsed.  As a result, river water flooded into the tunnel, causing flooding in many buildings in the Chicago Loop.

Businesses and property owners in Chicago filed suit in state court, claiming that the company was negligent when it did the work the prior year and weakened the tunnel under the river.  The company went to federal court and argued that the AEA applied.  This was important because, if admiralty law applied, the company could seek to limit the total of all of its damages to the value of the barges and tug that were involved.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, which held that the AEA applied, so the limitation of liability argument could go forward.

Virginia Maritime Lawyers

Because of the AEA, admiralty law can be involved in cases that many lawyers, like those in Chicago, do not anticipate.  This is another reason that it is important to protect yourself and your family by talking to an experienced maritime lawyer.  At Richard J. Serpe, PC, we are here to help and we offer you a free initial consultation to discuss your case.