Maritime workers need to prove seaman status to benefit from special rights in case of a personal injury. Mr. Jackson's case illustrates how courts apply the new test for seaman status. See how it all developed.
Jackson’s Personal Injury Case
Following the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Sanchez v Smart Fabricators, maritime defendants seek to use this case to contest the seaman status of an injured crewman in an effort to devalue his or her claims. That’s why it has a great impact on maritime workers. That also has much to do with the story of Clarence Jackson.
Jackson worked as a welding supervisor for Plaquemine Point Shipyard aboard a barge located near the shipyard’s floating repair facility on the Mississippi River. He got injured in a trip and fall accident caused by a welding lead that had been left on the deck of the barge.
Jackson asserted personal injury claims for:
Plaquemine Point Shipyard contested whether Jackson was a seaman and challenged his claims. Specifically, the shipyard contended that as a welder and welding supervisor he was not a seaman because he was not exposed to the perils of the sea. It pointed out that he mostly worked on stationary barges in the shipyard’s floating repair fleet.
Jackson’s Test for Seaman Status
The Court concluded that even though Jackson was a welder and supervised other welders, he was required to work on the water during most of his workday. So, there was always the danger of falling overboard when other vessels contacted the floating repair fleet. In fact, there was exposure to the perils of the sea, here the Mississippi River.
As a maritime worker, it’s always good to know whether you qualify for a Jones Act seaman or not. Your seaman status entitles you to be a ward of the Admiralty with special protection under the law. An important part of the test is your connection to a vessel or fleet of vessels, which should be both substantial in nature and duration.
Jones Act employers will always try to bring up seaman status disputes in Court, so they can diminish your claims. It is vital to hire an experienced maritime attorney to oppose this practice. Should you have any doubts or questions about your status, get in touch with us.