January 18, 2013
On January 15, 2013, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida. The case considers whether a floating home that was unable to navigate and indefinitely attached to a dock constituted a “vessel” for purposes of federal maritime law. Although the City had obtained a court order requiring the sale of the home (due to non-payment of bills for city services) and then purchased it at the subsequent auction, the disposition of a bond the City posted in the course of the litigation remained in question.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Breyer, the Court held by a vote of 7-2 that such a floating structure does not constitute a ‘vessel’ because a reasonable observer would not conclude it was such, and thus does not fall within the scope of federal maritime law. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justice Kennedy.
To discuss the case, we have Rod Sullivan, who is an Associate Professor at Florida Coastal School of Law.