Foremost Ins. Co. v. Richardson,
457 U.S. 668 (1982)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Foremost Ins. Co. v. Richardson, 457 U.S. 668 (1982)

Foremost Ins. Co. v. Richardson

No. 80-2134

Argued January 12, 1982

Decided June 23, 1982

457 U.S. 668


An action to recover for the death of an occupant of a pleasure boat resulting from a collision with another pleasure boat on a river in Louisiana was instituted in Federal District Court on the asserted basis of admiralty jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1). The court dismissed the complaint, holding that there must be some relationship with traditional maritime activity for an injury sustained on navigable water to fall within federal admiralty jurisdiction, and that commercial maritime activity (not present here) is necessary to satisfy this relationship. The Court of Appeals reversed.

Held: In light of the need for uniform rules governing navigation, the potential impact on maritime commerce when two vessels collide on navigable waters, and the uncertainty and confusion that would necessarily accompany a jurisdictional test tied to the commercial use of a given boat, a complaint alleging a collision between two vessels -- including pleasure boats -- on navigable waters properly states a claim within the admiralty jurisdiction of the federal courts. The holding in Executive Jet Aviation, Inc. v. City of Cleveland, 409 U. S. 249, that claims arising from airplane accidents, although occurring in a maritime locality, are cognizable in admiralty only when the wrong bears a significant relationship to traditional maritime activity, also applies to determinations of federal admiralty jurisdiction outside the context of aviation torts. However, there is no requirement that the maritime activity be an exclusively commercial one. The federal interest in protecting maritime commerce can be fully vindicated only if all operators of vessels on navigable waters -- not just individuals actually engaged in commercial maritime activity -- are subject to uniform rules of conduct. This interpretation is consistent with congressional activity as to legislation governing "vessels" without regard to whether they engage in commercial activity. Pp. 457 U. S. 672-677.

641 F.2d 314, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting

Page 457 U. S. 669

opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., and REHNQUIST and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, post, p. 457 U. S. 677.

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