Admiralty’s in Extremis Doctrine: What Can Be Learned from the Restatement (Third) of Torts Approach?
Journal Maritime Law & Commerce, Vol. 43, April 2012
40 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2011 Last revised: 4 Oct 2012
Date Written: December 23, 2011
The in extremis doctrine has been part of maritime collision law in the U.S. for more than one hundred and sixty years. One would expect that a century and a half would provide ample time for mariners and admiralty practitioners and judges to master the doctrine. Alas, some of the professional nautical commentary and even an occasional collision case suggest that the doctrine is often misunderstood or misapplied. A fair number of admiralty writers fail to understand that the in extremis doctrine is not a single “in extremis rule,” but rather several rules, all of which are related to the existence of a somewhat poorly defined “in extremis situation.” Some practitioners and mariners also appear to believe the in extremis “rule” has been fully codified into the present Collision Regulations (either in Rule 2(b) or 17(b) or perhaps both) obviating recourse to the general maritime law cases. Alternatively, some believe that the addition of Rule 17(a)(ii) and its allowance for a permissive maneuver by the stand-on vessel before the situation has become in extremis, has rendered, or at least should render, the in extremis doctrine a relic of the former, less enlightened, collision regime. This article examines each of these propositions. In doing so, the article draws on the framework for negligence cases established by the recently released Third Restatement of Torts.
Keywords: shipping, collision, in extremis, torts, admiralty, maritime law, rules of the road
JEL Classification: K13, K33, L92
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation