Maritime-Connection Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

Maritime connection doctrine refers to a requirement that in order for a federal court to exercise admiralty tort jurisdiction, the alleged wrong should not only occur on navigable waters, but must also relate to a traditional maritime activity. Determination of whether a tort is maritime and thus within the admiralty jurisdiction of the federal courts traditionally depended upon the locality of the wrong. If the wrong occurred on navigable waters, the action is within admiralty jurisdiction; if the wrong occurred on land, it is not. However the U.S Supreme Court in Exec. Jet Aviation v. City of Cleveland, 409 U.S. 249 (U.S. 1972), held that “the mere fact that the alleged wrong occurs or is located on or over navigable waters whatever that means in an aviation context is not of itself sufficient to turn an airplane negligence case into a maritime tort. It is far more consistent with the history and purpose of admiralty to require also that the wrong bear a significant relationship to traditional maritime activity. Unless such a relationship exists, claims arising from airplane accidents are not cognizable in admiralty in the absence of legislation to the contrary.” In this case the aircraft owner claimed federal admiralty jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.S. § 1333(1) as a result of the airport's alleged failure to keep the runway free of birds or to give adequate warning of their presence after the aircraft was cleared for take off.

Maritime connection doctrine is also known as locality-plus test