Barge Accident Victim Denied Jones Act Claim
Every area of the law and every cause of action require certain elements for a successful lawsuit. These requirements are set to ensure expediency and accuracy in legal proceedings and to promote overall efficiency.
A recent barge accident case shows how failure to meet a legal definition in an element of a claim can impede the ability to succeed in a lawsuit. In this Jones Act case, the legal definitions of “seaman” and “sea vessel” were not adequately met, due to confusion in the definition of the element, barring the claim.
The Jones Act allows those injured during sea-related employment to recover for injuries sustained in the regular course/scope of work. In order to succeed on a Jones Act claim four basic things must be proven:
- A seaman
- Working on sea vessel
- Is injured through
- Employer negligence (that caused or contributed to injury)
The burden of proof in establishing all of these elements is on the Plaintiff.
The case at hand is regarding a female employee injured on a barge casino in Mississippi while on the water. The woman was employed by the casino as a security guard and was in the scope of employment when she slipped and fell on stairs. The woman filed a Jones Act claim against her employer for negligence based on “failure to properly inspect the premises for defective conditions and failure to remedy/repair such conditions.”
The casino moved for summary judgment, alleging the woman did not have grounds to bring a claim (that there was no genuine issue of material fact). The casino further alleged the woman wasn’t a “seaman” under the definition of the Jones Act because the casino didn’t meet the definition of a “sea vessel.”
The court reasoned that although the casino was floating, it had permanent dockside attachments and that the nature of the casino was not for navigational purposes of transporting cargo, passengers or equipment. The court also noted that because the casino didn’t have an engine or navigational crew, the casino was not engaged in nautical or maritime activities to define it as a “sea vessel.”
Because the court did not find the casino to be a sea vessel, the woman wasn’t considered a “seaman,” and the court granted the casino’s motion for summary judgment. There was no issue to be tried under the Jones Act without fulfilling the four elements. The injured employee’s Jones Act claim was lost.
Legal definitions are often difficult to understand. They are often premised on underlying legal theories and rely on additional information to create the elements of a cause of action. When legal definitions are not adequately met to establish the elements of a claim, the claim will likely be unsuccessful- as shown in this case of hazardous barge conditions.
The fact that the casino was not considered a “sea vessel” in this case may be confusing to many because common conceptions would likely find that a floating vessel, located atop water, is a “sea vessel.” Additionally, some casino-related claims are allowed under the Jones Act when dealing with such things as casino construction, causing further confusion. The legal definition of "sea vessel" under maritime law generally relates to actual nautical and maritime activities, primarily those involving sea transport, although some exceptions may exist depending on surrounding circumstances.
This case shows the importance of contacting a personal injury law firm with barge accident, maritime law and Jones Act attorneys with experience with these sorts of cases if you are involved in a sea-related accident. Choosing a legal representative who is familiar with this small sect of law can mean preventing the loss of a claim through confusion, such as in the casino case.
Page//Cagle has aggressively represents employees injured through the course of barge work in Jones Act claims. If you or a loved one needs experienced legal advice, call us directly at 314.322.8515 or toll free at 1.800.500.INJURY (4658).
I am more than willing to discuss your case with you, answering all of your questions and concerns- free of charge. You pay nothing unless you recover.
If you don’t want to call or you can't call, you can email me at email@example.com. I look forward to speaking with you and helping you through these trying times. You can also visit www.BargeAccidentLawGroup.com for more information.