Articles Posted in Jones Act

vessel_boat_mar_1201342-scaledIn contractual agreements, the validity of indemnity provisions can become a subject of contention between parties. But what happens when determining a contract’s maritime nature becomes pivotal in a case involving specialty services for drilling or production in navigable waters? As discussed below, this issue was scrutinized in a maritime appeal action filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Apache Corporation (“Apache”) had a blanket master services contract (“MSC”) with Specialty Rental Tools & Supply, L.L.P. (“STS”). This MSC Had an indemnity provision that ran in favor of Apache and its contractors. The work order didn’t require a vessel, nor was it anticipated that it would be needed to perform the job. Apache contracted with Larry Doiron, Inc.

(“LDI”), to provide a crane barge that was needed for the operation. Unfortunately, a member of the STS crew was injured by LDI operators during crane usage, prompting LDI to file a limitation of liability proceeding as the crane’s owner and a complaint against STS to seek indemnity as per the MSC.

giant_wave_rough_sea-scaledLarge waves and rough seas make boat travel a harrowing experience. But what happens if you are at work and fall out of bed during those stormy seas? Is the captain or company you work for liable under the Jones Act?  The following case out of Louisiana helps answer the question; can I recover under the Jones Act if rough seas cause my back injury? 

Richard Bosarge sued Cheramie Marine LLC (“Cheramie”) under the Jones Act after he allegedly suffered injuries aboard one of its utility vessels. See 46 U.S.C. § 30101. Before starting work, he had to complete a physical. During the physical, Bosarge responded he did not have any prior back pain or injuries, even though he had previously received medical care for his back pain. Nonetheless, Cheramie hired Bosarge to work as a relief captain. 

Bosarge claimed he was injured due to the captain’s decision to travel through rough seas. He alleged the captain’s path caused him to come out of bed and get slammed down. Cheramie argued the waves were not that big, and Bosarge had not reported having an accident. The jury found Bosarge had not suffered an accident. Further, the jury also found Bosarge misrepresented or concealed facts during his pre-employment physical. 

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.

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