Supreme Court declines to hear Jones Act case

Several months ago on this blog we discussed a federal appeals court decision that helped clarify the meaning of “in the course of employment” for Jones Act claims. The Fifth Circuit, based in New Orleans, held that a man who accidentally shot a coworker onboard a ship was not acting in the scope of his employment at the time of the shooting.

The Jones Act is a federal law that allows employers to be held liable for an employee injury at sea if both the victim of the injury and any third party to the accident are acting “in the course of employment.” For shipping employees, this traditionally means being on duty.

The widow of the man who had been shot appealed the Fifth Circuit’s decision to the United States Supreme Court, hoping that they would find the maritime employer to be vicariously liable for the mishap. However, last week the high court decided not to hear the case, which means the appeals court ruling still stands.

Maritime employment can be highly dangerous and there are several state and federal laws in place to protect employees who are injured or killed at sea. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and the Death on the High Seas Act are also available for injured workers or their survivors who want to pursue a claim for employer liability.

If you have been injured in the course of maritime employment, you may have a claim for damages under the Jones Act or other federal law. It is wise to consult a personal injury attorney with experience in similar matters who can help you navigate the relevant law and help you pursue any appropriate claims.

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, “Supreme Court declines to hear employer liability case,” Lawrence Hurley, Feb. 25, 2013

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