Professional Maritime Salvage Attorney
You can find quite a few attorneys who advertise and say that they handle maritime salvage claims, both in the Clearwater area, Tampa area, and beyond. However, with our firm we actually do handle salvage claims for Clearwater/Tampa maritime salvors. One thing that we are proud to say is that as a marine salvage attorney firm, we recently handled the most important maritime salvage case in the last 30 years. Florida falls under the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal as far as federal courts go, and Georgia and Alabama are also within the 11th Circuit.
We previously said elsewhere in the maritime salvage section of our 888BOATLAW.com website that the law in this jurisdiction requires three elements in order to prove entitlement to a maritime salvage award in Clearwater. Those three elements are:
- The vessel is under marine peril.
- The service rendered by the salvor is voluntary.
- There is success in part or in whole.
Klein v. Unidentified Wrecked And Abandoned Sailing Vessel
Unfortunately, in the case known as Klein v. Unidentified Wrecked And Abandoned Sailing Vessel from the year 1985 the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal added on one more requirement to the three elements. In the Klein case the appeals court said that a salvor also had to prove that the vessel could not have saved itself without the assistance of the salvor. Respectfully, this was not a correct decision for a couple of reasons.
First and foremost, the U.S. Supreme Court, where our law of maritime salvage originates, never said there was a fourth element that a maritime salvor had to prove in order to claim salvage. The U.S. Supreme Court is the final authority on such maritime salvage cases. Second, the Klein case was wrong because it forced the salvor to treat every maritime salvage as though the vessel might be a total loss.
As our marine salvage attorney knows, many maritime salvages in Clearwater, Tampa, Miami, the Florida Keys, etc.—all places we have done maritime salvage cases–involve cases where the vessel is in peril but not so much that there would be a total loss. Literally, in court, the marine salvage attorney would have to try to prove that the vessel could not have saved itself.
Girard v. The Blacksheep
Along comes our maritime salvage case of Girard v. The Blacksheep in Key West. In this case, the marine salvor had rendered vital assistance to an $8.0 million 110-foot yacht which had thrown one its shafts almost completely out of the vessel. The luxury yacht was taking on water, and the captain called the U.S. Coast Guard for emergency assistance. Girard got to the yacht quickly, deployed his dewatering pump, and dove under the vessel and placed a temporary patch to stem the flow of water into the vessel. Girard and a co-salvor then used a come-along, underwater, at night, to winch the expelled shaft back into place under the vessel.
At our trial in Key West the maritime defense counsel convinced the federal judge that the federal judge should apply the Klein case—and require the maritime salvor to prove that the vessel could not have saved itself without the assistance of the salvor. The federal judge actually awarded nothing to the salvors despite the salvors’ dangerous and heroic work.
On appeal, our marine salvage attorney argued to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal that there is not—and has never been—a requirement that the maritime salvor has to prove the vessel could not have saved itself. The GREAT NEWS (!!!) is that on November 1, 2016 the 11th Circuit issued their ruling and agreed with us that the 1985 Klein case—which had stood for more than 30 years in this jurisdiction—was wrong.
A Marine Salvage Attorney Makes Sure You Are Rewarded
Why is that great for you? Our Girard case is great for you because it lifted the burden of the fourth element which maritime defense attorneys had convinced federal judges to impose. What it means is that you should receive an award for your Clearwater maritime salvage services provided to a vessel if you can establish the three elements listed above. When you are looking for a Clearwater marine salvage attorney, or in Tampa, or anywhere in the State of Florida, you should go with the marine salvage attorney that actually handles cases and knows maritime salvage cases.