Sep 25, 2014

Posted by in Insurance Issues | 3 Comments

The Jones Act and Shipyard Accidents

A recent ruling by district court has effectively expanded a federal maritime law to include specific types of shipyard workers within its scope by redefining a critical term. The Fifth Circuit handed down a ruling last March 10, 2014 in the case Naquin v. Elevating Boats, LLC which upheld the determination of the jury in a lower court that the plaintiff Naquin, a vessel repair supervisor, was as a seaman under the Jones Act, therefore qualifying him with the help of a maritime lawyer to recover for damages for his injuries incurred while operating a crane that was on land.

The Fifth Circuit ruling will have a massive impact on insurance companies, shipyard operators, and shore-based workers. Prior to the ruling shore-based shipyard workers were only entitled to injury compensation under the Longshore Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) to a degree equivalent to regular workers’ compensation in other industries. The Jones Act (Merchant Marine Act of 1920) is a federal law which, among other maritime related issues, entitles seamen to recover damages for injuries incurred through the negligence of ship owners. Shore-based shipyard workers were not considered seamen because they typically spent most of their time shielded from the dangers generally associated with maritime travel i.e “perils of the sea” simply by not being aboard a vessel that actually puts out to sea. However, the Fifth Circuit applied the two-pronged Chandris test (Chandris, Inc., v. Latsis, 1995) to determine if Naquin satisfied the definition of a seaman under the Jones Act.

As the plaintiff spent at least 70% of his time working on board one of the vessels in the defendant’s fleet to maintain and repair it, the court determined that he did satisfy the requirements of contributing to the function of the vessel and having a substantial relationship to a vessel in navigable waters in terms of duration and nature. The court also cited a previous case in which the plaintiff, a crane operator on a river barge, was held to be a seaman under the Jones Act. If you were seriously injured while on the job as a shore-based maritime worker as a result of negligence, you too may qualify to recover damages under the Jones Act. Consult with an experienced maritime lawyer to find out if you satisfy the requirements.

  1. Thanks for the write up.

  2. Do you have an email list

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