Addressing Maritime and Business Law Issues Since 1989

Appeals Court addresses Jones Act, saying worker cannot sue

| May 26, 2021 | Maritime Law |

Maritime workers in California and across the United States rely on the Jones Act to give them the right to file a claim against their employer if they are injured on the job. Still, there may be nuance as to whether a person who suffered an injury can file a claim. The law can be somewhat confusing and it is not helped when there are court decisions that lead to questions as to who is covered and who is not. People who have been injured and believe they are shielded by the Jones Act can garner information from successful cases and unsuccessful cases alike.

Contractor injured on oil rig cannot file a lawsuit based on Jones Act

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that a man who was working as a welding contractor does not have the right to sue his employer for injuries he suffered on the job. This case may have ramifications for workers moving forward as it fundamentally changes a two-decade long interpretation of the Jones Act. Workers should understand this even before they head out to sea on a job. According to the court, the U.S. Supreme Court had put a “trilogy” in place with its decisions and this placed too narrow a focus on worker risk in the context of “perils of the sea.”

Perils of the sea should be considered in a case, but not as a basic factor. In the original claim, the man who was injured was working as a welder on a rig off the Louisiana coast. He suffered serious injuries when he fell, suffering several injuries. His lawsuit was based on the company not ensuring there was a safe workplace. The court decided that the perils of the sea was not enough to warrant a claim under the Jones Act as other considerations must be assessed. They include if the worker is linked to the vessel or a shore-based employer and if the work meets other sea-based criteria.

Harbor workers and longshoremen should understand the Jones Act

This case resulted in a worker who had initially sought compensation after injuries suffered at sea losing due to an appeals court’s interpretation. This is not meant to discourage claims by people who have suffered injuries as a longshoreman or harbor worker. It is important to know how this factors with maritime law and the way the decision might impact others who were injured and want to file a claim based on the Jones Act. Having assistance with seeking compensation after being injured in these types of jobs is important to determine if it is a viable claim and to maximize benefits.