The United States Constitution establishes admiralty jurisdiction over cases governed by a national body of uniform law, the general maritime law. This body of federal common law is augmented by numerous federal statutes designed to create uniform national legal standards governing maritime commerce. In practice, however, maritime law, both statutory and judge-made, is not uniform. There are hundreds of U.S. state and federal courts deciding maritime cases, yet only one, the United States Supreme Court, is empowered to resolve conflicting holdings. As such, many important issues are subject to unclear and competing legal standards that are often defined by arbitrary distinctions and conflicting judicial interpretations. Maritime commerce is therefore burdened by a complex and sometimes byzantine legal system that makes proactive risk management and dispute resolution unusually challenging.

Troutman Sanders’ Maritime practice has the experience and knowledge necessary to untangle and resolve complex maritime issues. We are familiar with maritime industries, including ship owners, towing and barge companies, terminal operators, cargo shippers and treasure salvors. Our team includes attorneys recognized by Best Lawyers in America and Virginia Super Lawyers, and who have earned AV ratings by Martindale-Hubbell. Some of our professionals have leadership experience in the military, and one is an adjunct professor at William & Mary Law School.

While we work regularly on standard maritime litigation matters such as personal injury and death, cargo, collision, and salvage cases, our attorneys have significant experience in complex and unusual maritime cases as well. For example, we have represented ship owners in cases involving violation of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, piracy in the Indian Ocean, and “magic pipe” investigations and litigation. We have consulted with a foreign government regarding fisheries and security issues, represented investors in connection with a fraudulent treasure salvage scam, and represented an academic institution in connection with programs involving studies conducted at sea.

We emphasize early in-depth investigation and evaluation of settlement options and in the past two years have settled several severe injury cases quickly under reasonable terms and without litigation under circumstances that saved our clients substantial litigation costs. On the other hand, when litigation is warranted, our approach is to work closely with our client to develop and execute an effective trial or appeal strategy. In a recent appeal, we won reversal of a $25,000,000 jury verdict in a case in which we were not trial counsel. In another recent ruling, we won summary judgment for a marine terminal in a Virginia state court in a personal injury case.

Our experience includes the following:

  • Environmental incidents
  • Maritime appeals
  • Personal injury and death
  • Major casualties
  • Maritime contracts
  • Maritime finance
  • Marine insurance
  • Historic treasure salvage
  • Regulatory, trade and logistics
  • Fisheries
  • Maritime crimes