The right to arrest a vessel is a maritime weapon that does not exist in the case claims against a railroad or a trucker. It also may allow a vessel to obtain services or supplies in foreign parts where the owner may not be known to the supplier. It can rely on the credit of the vessel itself-the ability to be arrested if the supplies or services are not paid for.
Nevertheless, maritime law applying to seizures of vessels requires that damages for wrongful arrest be awarded only on a showing of "bad faith, malice or gross negligence." It also established that "advice of competent counsel honestly sought and acted upon in good faith is alone a complete defense to an action for malicious prosecution."
Negligence alone will not suffice to maintain an action for wrongful arrest; rather the vessel owner must show that the arrest arose from "malice, bad faith, or reckless disregard of the other party's legal rights.
The resolution of a wrongful arrest action under maritime law requires a sole determination: whether defendant honestly sought and acted reasonably upon the advice of counsel in good faith when it arrested the vessel. Defendant's reliance upon advice of "competent counsel" is the key to good faith. In a recent case where a vessel was mistakenly arrested in Brazil, the U.S. court cited the reliance on "competent counsel" and "competent Brazilian court" that caused the order of arrest. Industrial Maritime Carriers, LLC. V. Dantzler, Inc. (U.S.D.C./S.D. Fla., Oct. 15, 2014).