The original draft of DOHSA used the antiquated phrase "beyond a marine league," which Congress clarified in 2006 by substituting "beyond 3 nautical miles" in its stead.
2000) ("We should interpret both 'high seas' and 'beyond a marine league' to have independent meaning.").
2000) (endorsing DOHSA interpretation that "defines 'beyond a marine league' as a geographical boundary and 'high seas' as a political boundary subject to change").
There was a tension in the statute between the federal remedy established on the high seas, beyond a marine league, and the preservation of state jurisdiction.
(111) The remarks of the supporters of the bill reflect that they simply wanted to establish a uniform federal remedy for wrongful deaths occurring beyond state territorial waters, a marine league from shore, (112) while opponents like Representatives Bryan and Mann fervently wanted to preserve the right of suitors to bring their actions in state court, regardless of the location of the accident.
(113) DOHSA applied only to the high seas beyond a marine league from shore, leaving state inland waters and the high seas within three miles from shore within the jurisdiction of the states.
Whenever the death of a person shall be caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default occurring on the high seas beyond a marine league from the shore of any State, or the District of Columbia, or the Territories or dependencies of the United States, the personal representative of the decedent may maintain a suit for damages in the district courts of the United States, in admiralty ....
(121) The Court added to the locality test a requirement "that the wrong bear a significant relationship to traditional maritime activity." (122) In the course of its analysis, however, the Court noted that federal jurisdiction had been consistently sustained over "aircraft crashes into the high seas beyond one marine league from shore." (123) The Court added: "Indeed, it may be considered as settled today that this specific federal statute gives the federal admiralty courts jurisdiction of such wrongful-death actions." (124) Consequently, when the death "falls within the literal terms of" (125) DOHSA--death caused by a wrongful act occurring on the high seas beyond a marine league from shore--DOHSA applies.
The court below assumed that the Seas Act did apply, since the island was located more than a marine league off the Louisiana coast.
caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default occurring on the high seas beyond a marine league from the shore of any State...." (142) One of the first cases to discuss what event will trigger coverage under this provision of DOHSA is Lacey u.
Finding it "undisputed that Howard died as the result of a wrongful act that occurred Taeyond a marine league [i.e., three nautical miles] from the shore of any State,'" (151) the court applied DOHSA as the exclusive remedy.