A federal appeals court ruled recently that admiralty jurisdiction applies in a case involving injury from a personal watercraft accident that occurred on the navigable waters of Mission Bay, near San Diego.
The two plaintiffs in the case, who were passengers on the PWC, stated they were thrown from the watercraft because of operator negligence and suffered personal injury. Mission Bay Jet Sport — the owner, but not the operator of the PWC — sought limited liability in federal district court.
The passengers argued, however, that the waters involved were not used for commercial activity and that PWC operation was not a traditional maritime activity. The trial court ruled in favor of the passengers, holding that there was no admiralty jurisdiction over the incident.
However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed that ruling, holding that because the waters involved were within the ebb and flow of the tide, the location test for admiralty jurisdiction was satisfied.