Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

Article Title

Recent Developments

First Page



The traditional American "locality" test' for admiralty tort (subject-matter) jurisdiction, which posits the occurrence of the tort on navigable waters as the controlling factor, has suffered mounting criticism through the years because it has resulted in unwarranted expansion of admiralty jurisdiction. Numerous federal courts consequently have suggested the need of an additional requirement that the claim involve some sort of traditional maritime activity to invoke admiralty jurisdiction. The Supreme Court, however, used only the locality test prior to deciding Executive Jet Aviation, Inc. v. City of Cleveland, in which the Court found both the historical requirement of locality and a "significant relationship to traditional maritime activity" necessary for admiralty jurisdiction. The holding in Executive Jet, however, applied only to aviation accidents, and in subsequent cases the lower federal courts have struggled with the problem of Executive Jet's application to other types of admiralty claims and the continued utility of the locality rule. A series of recent federal court decisions illustrate this struggle and, therefore, offer a suitable basis for its evaluation.