Seaman sues Harahan based company under Jones Act

Timothy J. Rogers filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County Texas District Court against Marquette Transportation Co. Gulf-Inland, which is part of Marquette Transportation Company and based in Harahan.

The suit was filed on February 19th and regards injuries Rogers sustained on January 3rd while working aboard the Mary Kay. Rogers did not specify in the court documents how he was injured but states that the injuries were to his back and body. Smith blames the injuries on negligence and unseaworthiness and claims that due to his injuries he has incurred medical costs, pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment and disfigurement, and lost earnings.

Under the Jones Act, (46 U.S.C. § 30104) injured seaman or their survivors may obtain damages from their employers if their employers, shipowners, captains, or fellow crew members, are deemed to have been negligent or if vessels they are working on are not seaworthy. The rights afforded by the Jones Act go beyond those provided by common international maritime law because they allow injured parties to bring claims in state or federal court and entitle them to a jury trial.

Not just anyone who works on a boat is considered a seaman with the right to bring a Jones Act claim, however. The Supreme Court in the 1995 case of Chandris, Inc. v. Lastis ( 515 U.S. 347 (1995)) found that workers who spend less than 30 percent of their time in the service of a vessel on navigable waters are presumed not to be seaman with Jones Act protection.

Even if a seaman brings a claim in state or federal court under the Jones Act, compensation is not guaranteed. Negligence or unseaworthiness must be proven. Negligence entails action or lack of action that fell below the standard of what a reasonable person should have done in the particular circumstances. Specifically, a negligence claim has four major elements of proof: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

First, the Defendant must have owed a duty to the plaintiff. Duty can be created by the relationship between the parties or it may be imposed by law. Second, the duty must have been breached. Third, the breach must have caused the injury. This means that without the breach of duty the injury would not have happened. In addition, the injury must have resulted naturally from the breach. Finally, the injury must have created compensable damages.

An injured seaman may also recover additional damages if the vessel he was on is determined to be “unseaworthy.” Recovery for unseaworthiness can include compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering or impairment of earning capacity that resulted from the injury and can be attributed to the unseaworthiness. it is the duty of a shipowner to maintain their vessel. In addition to the condition of the ship, equipment or crew members can render the vessel unseaworthy as well.

If a seaman’s injury was not due to the negligence of their employer or a problem with the vessel itself they may still be entitled to compensation. Seaman can recover maintenance and cure even if the owner of the ship did nothing wrong. As long as the seaman was in the service of the ship (even if not on board) when the accident occurred, maintenance and cure must be paid. “Maintenance” in this sense is a maritime term meaning room and board and it is a daily payment to the seaman to cover the cost of room and board which would otherwise be provided on the vessel. Maintenance begins on the date the seaman leaves the vessel because he has been injured. Maintenance payments continue until the seaman reaches a maximum medical cure. A cure is defined as the medical expenses paid by a shipowner when a seaman has been injured and is the seaman’s right to medical treatment.

As you can see, while Jones Act claims can be complex, seaman have significant legal protections under the law. As such it is vital that they have competent, diligent representation.

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