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U.S. Supreme Court

Is Floating Home a Vessel Subject to Maritime Law? Justices Consider the Issue

Posted Oct 2, 2012 8:22 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Justices floated hypotheticals on Monday when they considered whether a floating home is a boat subject to federal maritime law.

The Florida town of Riveria Beach maintains Fane Lozman’s home was violating marina safety regulations, and officials had the right under U.S. maritime law to tow away the vessel, report the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the Palm Beach Post, McClatchy Newspapers and SCOTUSblog.

Lozman’s lawyer, Stanford law professor Jeffrey Fisher, said his client’s floating structure had no engine or steering, and was designed to connect to land-based sewer and electrical lines. The home was not a vessel, he contended.

Arguing for the city of Riviera Beach, lawyer David Frederick said a structure is a vessel “if it floats, moves, and carries people or things on water.”

The hypotheticals followed. Justices asked about regulating inner tubes, a cup that floats, a floating garage door, Styrofoam sofas, an inflatable raft, and a river-based aircraft carrier used as a museum.

According to the Law Blog, the gambling industry is closely following the case because of fears docked casinos could be treated as vessels. The case is Lozman v. Riviera Beach.

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