The opinion of the court was delivered by: Haight, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This action presents the question of whether plaintiff American Steamship Owners Mutual Protection and Indemnity Association, Inc. ("the American Club" or "the Club"), an insurer of shipowners and charterers against third-party liabilities, covered defendant Lafarge North America, Inc. ("Lafarge"), a barge charterer, in respect of damage to third parties in New Orleans associated with Hurricane Katrina. The American Club issues what is known as "P&I" insurance, standing for "protection and indemnity." The Club contends that it did not cover Lafarge for the underlying third-party claims. Lafarge contends that it is covered. The facts of the case are set forth in detail in the Court's prior opinion, 474 F. Supp. 2d 474 (S.D.N.Y. 2007), familiarity with which is assumed, and are not recounted here.
American Club commenced this action pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, for a judicial declaration of non-coverage. Its complaint alleged admiralty jurisdiction in this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1333 and diversity jurisdiction under § 1332. The complaint asserts in ¶ 4:
This is a case of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, as hereinafter more fully appears, and involves an admiralty or maritime claim within the meaning of Rule 9(h) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Lafarge does not dispute that the case arises out of a maritime contract of insurance and accordingly falls within the Court's admiralty and maritime jurisdiction.
Lafarge's answer and counterclaims assert that it is covered by the Club's policy and the Club has breached that policy, causing Lafarge to suffer damages at law. See Def.'s Answer and Countercl. ¶¶ 61-68. Lafarge has demanded a jury trial of its legal claims. The Club now moves to strike defendant's jury demand. For the reasons that follow, the American Club's motion is granted and Lafarge's jury demand is stricken. Trial of this action will be to the Court.
Admiralty jurisdiction is conferred upon federal district courts by 28 U.S.C. § 1333, which provides:
The district courts shall have original jurisdiction, exclusive of the courts of the States, of:
(1) Any civil case of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction, saving to suitors in all cases all other remedies to which they are otherwise entitled.
The "savings to suitors" clause establishes the right of a party to choose whether to proceed within the court's admiralty jurisdiction or general civil jurisdiction when both admiralty and non-admiralty jurisdiction exist. See, e.g., Atlantic & Gulf Stevedores, Inc. v. Ellerman Lines, Ltd., 369 U.S. 355, 359-60 (1962). Prior to the merger of law and admiralty, a plaintiff exercised that option by filing a claim on the "admiralty" side or the "civil" side of a district court. Id. With the merger of law and admiralty, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure advisory committee recognized the need for a mechanism to inform the court of a claimant's election to proceed in admiralty on claims cognizable both in admiralty and the court's general civil jurisdiction. That mechanism is furnished by Rule 9(h), included in the 1966 amendments to the Rules. Rule 9(h) provides in part:
If a claim for relief is within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction and also within the court's subject-matter jurisdiction on some other ground, the pleading may designate the claim as an admiralty or maritime claim for the purposes of Rule 14(c), 38(e), 82 and the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions.
A pleader may thus designate a claim as an "admiralty or maritime claim within the meaning of Rule 9(h)" to inform the court that the pleading has elected to proceed within the court's admiralty jurisdiction. The American Club ...