American Bar Association
Media Alerts
Media Alerts - Greg Hargus v. Ferocious and Impetuous, LLC - Third Circuit
Decrease font size
Increase font size
October 24, 2016
  Greg Hargus v. Ferocious and Impetuous, LLC - Third Circuit
Headline: Tortious act of throwing an object from land at an individual on an anchored vessel does not threaten a disruptive effect on maritime commerce and does not invoke federal admiralty law

Area of Law: Federal Admiralty and Maritime Jurisdiction

Issue(s) Presented: Whether throwing a coffee cup from land at an individual's head, who is standing on an anchored vessel, threatens a disruptive effect on maritime commerce and, thus, invokes maritime jurisdiction?

Brief Summary: Plaintiff filed a personal injury suit in District Court when he was hit in the head by a coffee cup while standing on an anchored vessel. Defendant threw the coffee cup from land. The Third Circuit concluded that plaintiff's negligence claim did not invoke maritime jurisdiction because the act did not potentially disrupt maritime commerce.
As established by the United States Constitution and 28 U.S.C §1333(1), "federal district courts have original jurisdiction over any civil case of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction" for the purpose of protecting maritime commerce. These cases must satisfy conditions of both location and of connection with maritime activity in order to be asserted.
The Third Circuit held that the first prong of the admiralty jurisdiction connection test was not met. Analyzing the "potential disruptive effects" the tortious act could have had on maritime commerce, the Third Circuit concluded that throwing an object from land at a person on an anchored vessel did not disrupt the waterway, obstruct free passage of commercial ships, or damage nearby commercial ships. Therefore, the incident did not have a disruptive effect on maritime commerce and failed to satisfy the first prong of the connection test, rendering federal admiralty jurisdiction inappropriate.

Extended Summary: Plaintiff Greg Hargus filed a negligence claim in district court when he was hit in the head by a coffee cup while he was standing on an anchored vessel. The coffee cup was thrown by Defendant Kyle Coleman while he was on land. The Third Circuit found that this tortious incident did not invoke maritime jurisdiction because it did not "potentially disrupt maritime commerce."
As established by the United States Constitution and 28 U.S.C §1333(1), "federal district courts have original jurisdiction over any civil case of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction." The purpose of having maritime jurisdiction is to protect maritime commerce. "To invoke federal admiralty jurisdiction over a tort claim, the claim must satisfy conditions of both location and of connection with maritime commerce."
The Third Circuit focused on the connection aspect of the test. Connection is satisfied by fulfilling a two-part test, requiring the court to first establish that "the general features of the type of incident involved have a potentially disruptive impact on maritime commerce." Referencing other cases, the Third Circuit noted that a disagreement or "physical altercation" between individuals on or around navigable water did not disrupt navigation, because it did not impede the "free passage of commercial ships in navigable waterways." Also, because the injurious event occurred while the vessel was docked, the vessel's crew was not distracted, which could have posed a danger to colliding with other vessels.
The Third Circuit held that the activity did not pose a threat to potentially disrupting maritime commerce since it did not obstruct the free passage of commercial ships, create a risk of collision of vessels, or damage a nearby vessel. Therefore, the first prong of the connection test was not satisfied, barring the application of federal admiralty jurisdiction. The Third Circuit vacated the judgment and remanded with instructions for the District Court to dismiss the case.

The full opinion can be found at http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/153635p.pdf

Panel: Fuentes, Vanaskie, and Restrepo, Circuit Judges

Argument Date: May 19, 2016

Date of Issued Opinion: October 18, 2016

Docket Number: No. 15-3635

Decided: Vacated and remanded

Case Alert Author: Katherine A. Osevala

Counsel: Matthew J. Duensing, Counsel for Appellants.

Author of Opinion: Circuit Judge Vanaskie

Circuit: Third Circuit

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Mary E. Levy

    Posted By: Susan DeJarnatt @ 10/24/2016 12:50 PM     3rd Circuit  

FuseTalk Enterprise Edition - © 1999-2018 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.

Discussion Board Usage Agreement

Back to Top