Jones Act Case Dismissed in Federal Court: Norco Tankerman will not be Able to Collect From his Employer

In October 2007, a Norco tankerman was injured aboard the M/V DUSTIN CENAC at dock #2 of the Valero Corporation’s facility in Norco. The tankerman was completing the loading procedure of the barge when the Valero dock man prematurely began lifting the loading arm and he was pinned between the arm and a winch on the barge. He brought suit against his employer and owner of the barge, Cenac towing, and Cenac filed a motion for summary judgment. The motion was granted on February 12 when a Federal judge ruled that no issue of material fact existed as to whether they were negligent.

The Jones Act provides seaman with a cause of action for injuries that result from an employer’s negligence. To prove negligence, the injured party must prove that the employer had a duty to them which was breached and that the breach was the cause and proximate cause of the accident. Proving proximate cause goes beyond merely proving that without the breach of duty the injury would not have occurred but also that the injury naturally and foreseeably resulted from the breach.

In this case the judge found that nothing in the complaint or depositions showed negligence on the part of Cenac. While the injured tankerman’s attorney suggested possible negligence by the Valero employee and suggested the vessel may have been unseaworthy due to a malfunctioning loading arm, the tankerman testified that nothing done by the Cenac’s crew did anything to contribute to his injury.

Cenac towing was not the only defendant in this lawsuit. When an injured individual chooses to bring a Jones Act case, their attorney must carefully consider which parties to include in the claim and ensure that liability can be proven under the law with respect to each party. Proving negligence under the Jones Act is complex and requires experienced counsel. If you have questions about the elements of a Jones Act claim we would be happy to discuss them with you. Please call usToll-Free at 1-866-574-8005.