Because a riverboat casino was a vessel in navigation for purposes of the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C.S. § 30104, at the time of an employee’s work related injury, the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commission did not have jurisdiction of the employee’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits by operation of Iowa Code § 85.1(6).
ISLE OF CAPRI CASINO, Petitioner-Appellee, vs. DIANE WILSON, Respondent-Appellant.
COURT OF APPEALS OF IOWA
2009 Iowa App. LEXIS 1446
September 2, 2009, Filed
Claimant employee appealed a decision of the Iowa District Court for Scott County dismissing her claim for workers’ compensation benefits after finding that the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commission (Commission) improperly found it had jurisdiction of the claim. Appellee employer had denied the employee’s claim for benefits alleging that the Commission lacked jurisdiction because the claim was governed by the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C.S. § 30104.
The employer operated a riverboat casino. The employee had filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits after an on the job injury. The employer denied the claim, and following an arbitration hearing, a deputy commissioner found that the Commission had jurisdiction and awarded benefits. The Commission affirmed, but the district court found that the Commission lacked jurisdiction. The employee argued that the Jones Act did not apply because she was not a “seaman” since the casino at the time of her injury was not a “vessel in navigation.” At the time of the employee’s accident the casino was still fully capable of sailing. It had a captain and marine crew on staff, was still under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard, and had insurance coverage certifying it to sail. It was undisputed that the casino was capable of sailing within 90 minutes at any given time. The casino had not become reclassified as a permanently moored vessel until approximately 10 months after the employee’s injury. Because the casino was fully capable of sailing, it was a “vessel in navigation” for purposes of the Jones Act. Therefore, the Commission lacked jurisdiction to award the employee benefits.
The court affirmed.
Court had admiralty jurisdiction over wife’s claims even though the barge where decedent was killed was in dry dock at the time of the accident; the evidence supported the district court’s rulings that general contractor did not supervise or control the way decedent climbed a ladder, and that the ladder was not in itself a dangerous condition.
CIRA BAUTISTA VASQUEZ, individually, on behalf of VICTOR ARTURO MEDINA BAUTISTA, a minor and as Representative of the Estate of GUMERSINDO MEDINA DUARTE, deceased, also known as ARTURO MEDINA DUARTE, Plaintiff-Appellant, – v.- GMD SHIPYARD CORP., Defendant-Cross-Claimant-Cross-Defendant-Appellee. ALLIED TRANSPORTATION LLC, as Owner and Operator of T/B ATC 23, Defendant-Cross-Claimant-Cross-Defendant, FCE Industries, Ltd., Defendant-Cross-Defendant.
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
582 F.3d 293; 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 20450; 29 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 1298
September 15, 2009, Decided
Appellants, a decedent’s estate and his wife and child (wife), appealed the order of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York which held in favor of appellee general contractor. The district court dismissed all of the wife’s claims and held that decedent’s injury was not caused by a dangerous condition on the premises under N.Y. Lab. Law § 200, and that the contractor did not violated N.Y. Lab. Law §§ 240(1), 241(6).
The contractor oversaw repairs to the barge, where decedent fell in an accident. Decedent, who was working on the floor of a tank, needed to get to the upper deck to adjust the regulator for his torch, and began climbing a ladder affixed to the tank wall. It was undisputed that, immediately prior to his fall, he stepped off the ladder in order to let a co-worker descend. The vessel was in a “graving dock,” a species of dry dock. U.S. Supreme Court precedent, common practice, and logic all compelled the conclusion that a ship in a “graving” or “graven” dock was still in “navigable waters” for purposes of federal admiralty jurisdiction even though water may have been temporarily removed. The appellate court concluded that the activity giving rise to the incident had a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity such that the incident had a potentially disruptive influence on maritime commerce. Thus, the district court had maritime jurisdiction. The record evidence supported the district court’s rulings that the general contractor did not supervise or control the way decedent climbed the ladder, and that the ladder was not in itself a dangerous condition.
The judgment of the district court in favor of the general contractor was affirmed.
Defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims for maintenance and cure was denied because plaintiff was in the employ and service of defendant when he injured his left knee in the retail store parking lot. Specifically, plaintiff injured his knee while purchasing supplies for the vessel’s voyage.
PHILLIP CROW, Plaintiff, vs. COOPER MARINE & TIMBERLANDS CORPORATION, Defendant.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, SOUTHERN DIVISION
2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79713
September 2, 2009, Decided
Plaintiff seaman filed suit against defendant vessel owner under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C.S. § 30104, for negligence and maritime claims for unseaworthiness, maintenance, cure, and lost wages. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss.
Plaintiff sought recovery for damages allegedly caused when plaintiff injured his left knee when he slipped while stepping onto the port push knee of defendant’s vessel because defendant failed to provide a safe means of ingress and egress to the vessel. The court found that plaintiff was in the employ and service of defendant when he injured his left knee in the retail store parking lot. Specifically, plaintiff injured his knee while purchasing supplies for the vessel’s voyage. The court also found that the parties stipulated that defendant paid for plaintiff’s post-injury medical treatment by two doctors as well as plaintiff’s associated rehabilitation. Next, the court found that plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees was denied. The court reasoned that there was no evidence that defendant acted in bad faith, callously, or unreasonably when it ceased to pay plaintiff maintenance and cure. On the contrary, one of defendant’s employee’s contacted plaintiff’s doctors in an effort to clarify his readiness for work. Additionally, defendant dutifully paid maintenance and cure until it was informed that plaintiff was resigning to seek more lucrative employment.
Defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claims was granted in part, to the extent it sought dismissal of plaintiff’s Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness claims; the remainder of the motion was denied.
Pennsylvania Rule did not apply in seaman’s Jones Act suit to recover for injuries he sustained during free dive because employer’s violation of 46 C.F.R. § 197.420(a)(1), which required provision of operations manual, was not cause of injuries; § 197.420 did not concern free dives and thus was not intended to protect against the injuries at issue.
CHRISTOPHER MACDONALD, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. KAHIKOLU, LTD., doing business as Frogman Charters, Defendant-Appellee.
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
581 F.3d 970; 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 20162; 2009 AMC 2113
September 10, 2009, Filed
Appellant seaman sought review of a judgment from the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii, which, after a bench trial, ruled in favor of appellee employer in the seaman’s Jones Act, 46 U.S.C.S. § 30104, suit. The seaman had worked as a crew member aboard one of the employer’s ships and sustained ear injuries while performing a “free dive,” an underwater dive done on a single breath without scuba equipment.
The district court held that the employer’s failure to comply with 46 C.F.R. § 197.420(a)(1), which required the employer to provide an operations manual to the person in charge of a dive, did not cause the seaman’s injuries. On appeal, the seaman argued that the district court should have applied the Pennsylvania Rule, which put on a ship owner the burden of proving that its violation of a statute or regulation did not cause the injury. The court disagreed, noting that there had to be a threshold causal connection between the violation and the injury before the Pennsylvania Rule applied. In part, this has meant that the injury had to be of the kind intended to be prevented by the statute or regulation that was violated. Here, there was little, if any, evidence to show that the absence of a dive manual aboard the vessel contributed, even in the slightest, to the seaman’s injuries. The regulations were void of any discussion relating to free diving. This indicated that the regulations were not intended to protect against the seaman’s injuries and that there was no causal relationship between the lack of a diving manual and the injuries. As such, the Pennsylvania Rule did not apply.
The court affirmed the district court’s judgment.
Seaman’s Jones Act negligence claim failed because evidence, including Coast Guard report, showed that his conduct in driving skiff at high speed despite claiming that he was unable to see bridge and knowing he was in close proximity to bulkhead was sole proximate cause of accident, and there was no evidence that skiff was improperly maintained.
CHARLES H. DISE v. EXPRESS MARINE, INC.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80385; 2009 AMC 2265
September 4, 2009, Decided
Plaintiff seaman sued defendant employer, asserting claims of negligence under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C.S. § 30104 (former 46 U.S.C.S. app. § 688(a)), unseaworthiness, maintenance and cure, unpaid wages, and vicarious liability for medical negligence. The employer asserted counterclaims to recover payments made in connection with the accident that caused the seaman’s injuries. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment.
The seaman accompanied a coworker on a skiff to conduct a tug draft reading. After the reading, they took the skiff to look at a vessel moored down river. When called back to conduct a second reading, the seaman, who was at the helm, crashed the skiff into a bridge bulkhead and was injured. The seaman suffered further injury after his leg wound was treated, allegedly due to malpractice by a medical center. The court held that (1) the seaman’s negligence claim failed because the evidence, including a Coast Guard report, showed that the seaman’s conduct in driving the skiff at a high rate of speed despite claiming that he was unable to see the bridge and knowing he was in close proximity to the bulkhead was the sole proximate cause of the accident; (2) there was no evidence that the skiff was in unseaworthy condition; (3) the vicarious liability claims failed because there was no evidence that the employer affirmatively engaged the medical center to treat the seaman; and (4) the counterclaim for indemnification for payments the employer made to the coworker failed, as there was no evidence to support a finding that the seaman committed an intentional tort against the coworker.
The court granted the employer summary judgment on all of the seaman’s claims. The court denied the seaman’s motion for summary judgment on his vicarious liability claim and the employer’s counterclaim for damages to the skiff, but granted the seaman summary judgment on the counterclaims for recoupment of maintenance and cure and indemnification for payments to the coworker. The only pending issue was the counterclaim regarding the skiff.
Where an employee was deemed unfit to return to duty due to a back injury, he was entitled to an award of maintenance because commuter seamen enjoyed the same right to maintenance as their blue water counterparts, and long-term disability payments and Social Security disability benefits did not satisfy the employer’s maintenance obligation.
DELAWARE RIVER & BAY AUTHORITY, Appellant in No. 08-4029 v. JAN D. KOPACZ, Appellant in No. 08-4086
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
584 F.3d 622; 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 21260
September 25, 2009, Filed
Appellant employer sued appellee employee, seeking a declaratory judgment that the employer did not owe the employee maintenance and cure. The United States District Court for the District of Delaware awarded a declaratory judgment in favor of the employee and awarded prejudgment interest, but denied the employee’s claim for consequential damages. The employer appealed. The employee cross-appealed.
The employee suffered a debilitating back injury and was deemed unfit to return to duty by the employer. The employee received his full wages for 90 days following the date of his disability, the value of his sick and annual leave, monthly long-term disability (LTD) benefits, and Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. An insurer demanded reimbursement and suspended payment of LTD benefits. The appellate court determined that the employee was entitled to an award of maintenance because (1) commuter seamen enjoyed the same right to maintenance as their blue water counterparts, (2) LTD payments did not satisfy the employer’s maintenance obligation since the LTD benefits were a substitute for wages, not maintenance, and (3) the employee’s receipt of SSD benefits under 42 U.S.C.S. § 423 did not satisfy the employer’s maintenance obligation since SSD benefits and maintenance differed in their scope, purpose, and conditions of eligibility. The district court did not err in granting the employee prejudgment interest on the amount of maintenance owed to him. The district court properly exercised its discretion to deny the employee attorney’s fees and costs.
The appellate court affirmed the district court’s judgment.