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10 Suffolk Transnat'l L.J. 187 (1986)
Admiralty - Scope of Jurisdiction

handle is hein.journals/sujtnlr10 and id is 195 raw text is: ADMIRALTY-SCoPE OF JURISDICTION-Why Shipyard
Workers with Asbestosis Are Not Entitled to Admiralty
Jurisdiction, Oman v. Johns-Manville Corp., 764 F.2d
224 (4th Cir.1985).
The United States Constitution grants the federal courts
original jurisdiction over cases arising in admiralty.1 Tradi-
tionally, any injury occuring on navigable waters was deemed
to create an issue triable in admiralty.2 In Oman v. Johns-
Manville Corp. ,' the United States Court of Appeals for the
Fourth Circuit narrowed the scope of admiralty jurisdiction
by deciding that regardless of where the injury occurred, land
based pursuits which do not qualify as a traditional maritime
activity, do not warrant admiralty jurisdiction.4
The plaintiff, James Oman, was a shipyard worker whose
work involved the installation of asbestos insulation.5 As a
result of his prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers, Mr. Oman
contracted the disease asbestosis.6 In 1976, James Oman and
four other plaintiffs brought suit in the United States District
Court for the District of Virginia against the Johns-Manville
Corp., a manufacturer of the asbestos insulation used at the
Newport News Shipyard.7 Oman asserted federal jurisdiction
based upon both diversity and the court's constitutional au-
thority to decide cases in admiralty.' It was Oman's conten-
tion that since he contracted asbestosis while on board a ship
1. U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2, cl. 1. The judicial power shall extend... to all
cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; Id.
2. The Plymouth, 70 U.S. (3 Wall.) 20, 35-36 (1865).
3. 764 F.2d 224 (4th Cir. 1985).
4. Id. at 226. The installation of asbestos was found not to qualify as a tradi-
tional maritime activity and therefore the resulting injury caused by exposure to
asbestos did not create an issue triable in admiralty. Id.
5. Id. Oman and three other plaintiffs were shipyard workers at Newport News
Shipyard in Virginia. Id.
6. See id. Oman's work involved the prolonged exposure to and inhallation of
air-born asbestos fibers. The build up of these fibers in the lung tissue creates the
respiratory disease known as asbestosis. For which there is no known cure. Id.
7. Oman v. Johns-Manville Corp., No. 76-178NN, 77-97NN, Slip op. at 1 (E.D.
Va. Jan 31, 1980). Oman represents a consolidation of several earlier actions
against Johns-Manville by workers at the Newport News Shipyard. Id.
8. Id. at 5-6. However, the district court denies admiralty jurisdiction and ap-
plies Virginia substantive law to plaintiffs claims. Id.

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