Articles Posted in Jones Act

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What is vicarious liability? Vicarious liability, simply put, is the common law principle that an employer may be liable for its employee’s negligence if that employee’s negligence occurred within the course or scope of his or her employment.

In the Beech v. Hercules Drilling Company, L.L.C., case coming out of the Eastern District of Louisiana, vicarious liability principles came into play. In this case, certain bizarre events led the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to make a ruling as to whether Hercules Drilling Company should be held vicariously liable for the actions of Michael Cosenza, its employee, who accidentally shot and killed his co-worker, Keith Beech, while both were aboard a Hercules owned vessel.

The facts of the case were not in dispute. Beech was a crane operator aboard a jack-up drilling rig that Hercules owned, while Cosenza was a driller aboard the vessel. On December 13, 2009, the fateful events that led to the aforementioned case, took place. Cosenza happened to own a firearm, which he accidentally took aboard the vessel; Hercules policy prohibited any firearms from being aboard their vessels. Not only did Cosenza bring a firearm aboard the vessel, violating the policy, but when he realized that he had inadvertently brought it aboard (he found it among his laundry) he did not inform anyone about it and placed it in his locker, further violating Hercules policy. Cosenza was aware of the policies regarding firearms.