The federal courts have often been faced with the “recurring and inherent conflict” between the Limitation of Liability Act and the saving to suitors clause. The Limitation of Liability Act allows a shipowner to absolutely limit its liability, for collisions and other losses which take place without the owner’s privity or knowledge, to the value of the ship and its freight then pending. The Act also provides for exclusive federal admiralty jurisdiction to determine whether an owner is entitled to limitation of its liability. The saving to suitors clause, on the other hand, which is included in the statutory grant of exclusive admiralty jurisdiction to the federal courts, gives claimants the right to pursue common law remedies in maritime causes of action in state court. One statute provides for a federal court, the other permits state court actions. The inherent contradiction of these statutory provisions has produced an ongoing conflict that courts have struggled to deal with for decades. In Lewis v. Lewis & Clark Marine, Inc., the Supreme Court reiterated that a claimant should be allowed to pursue an action in state court so long as the shipowner’s right to limitation of liability is protected by a federal court. The Court’s decision protects both shipowners’ right to limitation and claimants’ right to pursue claims in state court, although, given the inherent conflict between the saving to suitors clause and the Limitations Act, it is hardly likely to settle the conflict entirely.
B. Matthew Struble,
Of Saving to Suitors, Limitation of Shipowners' Liability, and the Inherent Conflict Between,
67 Mo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/mlr/vol67/iss4/8