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Maritime Law Glossary R - S

Glossary A - B | Glossary C | Glossary D - F | Glossary G - J | Glossary L -N | Glossary O - P | Glossary T - Z


Red Letter Clause – An exculpatory clause in a maritime contract. Shipyards often include red-letter clauses in their contracts with vessel owners purporting to relieve the shipyard of any liability for damage to the vessel while the vessel is in its care. There is a circuit court split on the validity of red-letter clauses.

Release – An agreement to liberate a party from an obligation, duty, or demand that could have been enforced by law.

Removal – The transfer of a civil action from state court to federal court.

Replevin – An action for the repossession of personal property wrongfully taken or detained by the defendant, whereby the plaintiff gives security for and holds the property until the court decides who owns it.

Res Ipsa Loquitur – A legal doctrine that is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.” Under this doctrine, negligence is presumed if the actor had exclusive control of what caused the injury, even in the absence of evidence of the actor’s negligence.

Respondeat Superior – A Latin legal term for “let the superior make answer.” The doctrine states an employer or principal is liable for the wrongful acts of its employee or agent committed within the scope of the employment or agency.

Retaliatory Discharge – A discharge from employment that is made in retaliation for an employee’s lawful conduct. A retaliatory discharge clearly violates public policy.

Rule 9(h) Election – Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, if a party is filing an admiralty or maritime claim, the party’s pleading may elect to designate the claim as an admiralty or maritime claim.


Safe Port Clause – A clause in a voyage or time charter party obligating the charterer to choose a port where the ship will be safe from damage. The ship’s master can refuse to enter the port without breaching the charter, but if the ship is damaged once the master reasonably enters the port, then the charterer is liable.

Salvage – The rescue of property in peril or danger. Salvage also refers to the compensation provided by law to a person who helps save a ship or its cargo with no duty to do so.

Seaman – Under the Jones Act, a person who is attached to a navigating vessel as an employee and contributes to the function of the vessel or the accomplishment of its mission. A seaman is entitled to coverage under the Jones Act and general maritime law.

Settlement – A legal agreement in which the defendant and plaintiff negotiate a particular outcome and agree to release all pending claims between the parties.

Sovereign Immunity – A government’s immunity from being sued in its own courts without its consent. In the United States, the federal and state governments enjoy sovereign immunity unless this immunity is waived by Congress or legislature.

Standard of Care – In an action for negligence, the standard of care refers to the degree of care that a reasonable person should exercise in a given situation. The standard of care assists in establishing a legal duty on the part of the defendant.

Standing to Sue – A party’s right to bring a civil claim in court. In federal court, to have standing a party must show that the challenged conduct has caused the plaintiff actual injury, and that the interest the party seeks to protect is within the zone of interests meant to be regulated by the statutory or constitutional provision in question.

State Law – A body of law in a particular state within the United States. Most state law is comprised of a state constitution, statutes, regulations and common law.

Statute – A law drafted and passed by a legislative body.

Statute of Limitations – A law that prohibits claims filed after a certain period of time. A statute of limitations creates a period of time after an injury or accident in which a victim may file a claim. After the statute of limitations runs, the claim is barred.

Strict Liability – Liability that is not tied to fault. Under strict liability, a party is held liable if a violation of statute occurs, regardless of negligence or intent to harm. Under the Jones Act, if a vessel is unseaworthy, a vessel owner or employer is held strictly liable for any damage or injury that ensues regardless of fault.

Subrogation – The substitution of one party for another whose debt the party pays. The substituted party is entitled to all rights, remedies or securities that would otherwise be available to the original party.

Superseding Cause – An intervening act or force that the law considers sufficient to override the cause for which the original tortfeasor was responsible. After a superseding cause, the original tortfeasor cannot be held liable.

Survival Statute – A law that permits certain actions to continue in favor of a surviving relative or personal representative after the death of the party who could have originally brought the action.

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