Jones Act Cases - Seaman Cases, Decisions & Opinions
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Jones Act - Table of Contents
The Jones Act - Cases, Decisions and Opinions
I. IN GENERAL - C. Applicability to Foreign Ships, Seamen, and Occurrences - 2. Place of Injury
Place of injury is purely fortuitous factor of minimal importance in supporting applicability of Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688); standing alone, place of injury is not substantial contact with United States and is insufficient to warrant jurisdiction under Act. Koupetoris v Konkar Intrepid Corp. (1976, CA2 NY) 535 F2d 1392.
Greater significance is to be given to law of flag, allegiance or domicile or injured, and allegiance of shipowner than is given to fact that United States was place of wrongful act. Nakken v Fearnley & Eger (1955, DC NY) 137 F Supp 288.
46 USCS Appx section 688 would not be invoked in action where only contact with United States was occurrence of injury and its treatment in United States. Gkiafis v S.S. Yiosonas (1966, DC Md) 254 F Supp 825, affd in part and revd in part on other grounds (CA4 Md) 387 F2d 460.
Place of wrongful act is of minor importance in determining law governing suit by seaman against foreign shipowner. Re Lidoriki Maritime Corp. (1975, ED Pa) 404 F Supp 1402.
Applicability of Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) depends upon substantiality of context of controversy with United States, and where all other factors are foreign-connected, mere happening of accident in American waters is insufficient to invoke Act. Manlugon v A/S Facto (1976, SD NY) 419 F Supp 550.
48. American territorial waters
Seaman's claim under 46 USCS Appx section 688 was properly dismissed by District Court where (1) seaman was citizen and resident of Greece who executed his contract of employment there, (2) ship flew Liberian flag and was owned by Liberian corporation with principal place of business and "base of operations" in Greece, all of whose shares were owned by Greek citizens and residents, (3) shipowner was amenable to suit in Greece, (4) all crew members on duty at time of alleged accident were alien seamen, and (5) vessel involved was only vessel owned by shipowner; fact that seaman's injuries occurred off coast of United States was purely fortuitous and factor of minimal importance which, standing alone, was not substantial contact with United States. Koupetoris v Konkar Intrepid Corp. (1976, CA2 NY) 535 F2d 1392.
Seaman, resident and citizen of Greece employed aboard vessel of Panamanian registry, owned by Panamanian corporation and managed and operated by Liberian corporation was not entitled to maintain action under Jones Act for personal injuries sustained aboard such vessel simply because, at time of injury, he was on board vessel which may have been traveling in United States waters. Kukias v Chandris Lines, Inc. (1988, CA1) 839 F2d 860.
Norwegian citizen injured while performing duty as seaman on Norwegian vessel proceeding up Delaware river was not entitled to recover under 46 USCS Appx section 688. The Seirstad (1928, DC NY) 27 F2d 982, 1928 AMC 1241.
There is no jurisdiction for action under 46 USCS Appx section 688 where plaintiff is foreign national who signed aboard foreign ship in foreign country for voyage beginning and ending in foreign port, even if injury occurs in United States waters. Catherall v Cunard S.S. Co. (1951, DC NY) 101 F Supp 230.
Citizen of Sweden who signed on Swedish ship for voyage to United States could not sue for damages incurred on vessel while on coastwise run between New York and Jacksonville. Johansson v O. F. Ahlmark & Co. (1952, DC NY) 107 F Supp 70.
Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) is applicable to suit for injury sustained in American territorial waters by Greek seaman aboard Liberian registered and American owned ship. Voyiatzis v National Shipping & Trading Corp. (1961, SD NY) 199 F Supp 920.
46 USCS Appx section 688 was not applicable to action by Philippine seamen for injuries allegedly sustained by them aboard Norwegian vessel in Lake Michigan, notwithstanding that managing owner of vessel owned or controlled United States corporation which acted as its general agent in United States; neither mere use nor mere ownership of agent in United States by shipowner suggested that shipowner's base of operations was in United States, and extension of base of operations doctrine to enterprise whose link to United States was that tenuous was not warranted. Manlugon v A/S Facto (1976, SD NY) 419 F Supp 550.
Philipine seaman's action for injuries sustained in Mississippi River aboard Singapore registered and Liechtenstein owned vessel is insufficient basis for application of Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688); standing alone, mere fact of injury in American waters is insufficient to invoke applicability of Jones Act. Ulat v Transreeder Schiffahrtsgesellschaft, m.b.h. (1976, DC La) 1976 AMC 2529.
Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) applies to Syrian seaman's personal injury claim, notwithstanding Greek registry of ship, Liberian ownership, contract in Greek providing for Greek law to apply, and availability of foreign forum, where accident occurred in United States waters and ship had substantial and continuous business contact with United States. Dalla v Atlas Maritime Co. (1983, CD Cal) 562 F Supp 752, affd (CA9 Cal) 771 F2d 1277.
Greek corporation was "employer" within meaning of Jones Act where injuries were sustained by Greek seaman aboard Greek flag ship in port of New Orleans. Hellenic Lines, Ltd. v Rhoditis, 398 US 306, 26 L Ed 2d 252, 90 S Ct 1731, reh den 400 US 856, 27 L Ed 2d 94, 91 S Ct 23.
49. American port
Maritime law of United States, including 46 USCS Appx section 688, may not be applied in action involving injury sustained in American port by foreign seaman on board foreign vessel in course of voyage beginning and ending in foreign country. Romero v International Terminal Operating Co. (1959) 358 US 354, 3 L Ed 2d 368, 79 S Ct 468, reh den 359 US 962, 3 L Ed 2d 769, 79 S Ct 795.
Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) is applicable to case in which Greek seaman was injured in Port of New Orleans while working aboard Greek vessel, since place of accident is factor to be considered in determining liability of shipowner under Jones Act. Hellenic Lines, Ltd. v Rhoditis (1970) 398 US 306, 26 L Ed 2d 252, 90 S Ct 1731, reh den 400 US 856, 27 L Ed 2d 94, 91 S Ct 23.
46 USCS Appx section 688 does not give its statutory right of action to foreign seaman signing on foreign vessel at foreign port, notwithstanding occurrence of injury in port of United States. The Paula (1937, CA2 NY) 91 F2d 1001, 1937 AMC 988, cert den 302 US 750, 82 L Ed 580, 58 S Ct 270; Gambera v Bergoty (1942, CA2 NY) 132 F2d 414, 1943 AMC 45, cert den 319 US 742, 87 L Ed 1699, 63 S Ct 1030; The Magdapur (1933, DC NY) 3 F Supp 971, 1933 AMC 831, (disapproved on other grounds Waldron v Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc. 386 US 724, 18 L Ed 2d 482, 87 S Ct 1410).
Maryland federal District Court had constitutional jurisdiction over action under 46 USCS Appx section 688 brought by Greek national injured in Maryland port against tramp steamer with no scheduled route owned by Panamanian corporation and registered under Greek flag, which vessel had been in Maryland ports on six occasions during nine-year period. Gkiafis v S.S. Yiosonas, (1965, CA4 Md) 342 F2d 546, 1965 AMC 1411, on remand (DC Md) 254 F Supp 825, affd in part and revd in part on other grounds (CA4 Md) 387 F2d 460.
Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) is applicable to accident which occurred in American port despite fact that injuries were sustained by Hungarian seaman aboard Greek vessel. The Leontios Teryazos (1942, DC NY) 45 F Supp 618.
Citizen of Norway, who shipped on Norwegian ship in Antwerp, Belgium, for voyage ending in foreign port, could not maintain 46 USCS Appx section 688 action to recover damages as result of fall from ship to pier in American port. Lunde v Skibs A. S. Herstein (1952, DC NY) 103 F Supp 446.
46 USCS Appx section 688 is not applicable in action by Greek citizen for injuries which occurred on board ship flying Liberian flag while such ship was in United States port even though flying of Liberian flag may have been to accomplish such result. Markakis v Liberian S/S The Mparmpa Christos (1958, DC NY) 161 F Supp 487.
Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) is not applicable to suit by Greek seaman for injuries sustained on Swedish vessel where only contact with United States is fact that accident occurred while vessel was at dock in Virginia. Katelouzos v The Othem (1960, ED Va) 184 F Supp 526.
Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) does not apply to Egyptian seaman's suit for injuries sustained both in New York and Venezuela while working aboard Norwegian vessel, since only connection with United States is fact that one of injuries was sustained in Port of New York. Shahid v A/S J. Ludwig Mowinckels Rederi (1964, SD NY) 236 F Supp 751.
Argentine sailor on Argentine ship could not sue under 46 USCS Appx section 688 for injury occurring in United States port. Serrano v Empresa Lineas Maritimas Argentinas (1966, DC Md) 257 F Supp 870, 10 FR Serv 2d 383.
Mere fact that death of Greek seaman aboard Greek registered and Panamanian owned vessel occurred in New York harbor is insufficient to invoke application of Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688); although single contact of death in New York does not render widow's claim specious, it does not, as matter of law, create necessary substantiality. Xerakis v Greek Line, Inc. (1974, ED Pa) 382 F Supp 774.
46 USCS Appx section 688 is inapplicable to suit by crewmembers of tank vessel which suffered explosions and fire while tied up at Pennsylvania refinery where vessel was Greek vessel, none of crew members or officers were American citizens, all crew members signed employment contracts in Greece which provided for exclusive jurisdiction of Greek courts, and there was no ownership or interest in vessel by U.S. citizen or resident; place of wrongful act is of minor importance in determining law governing suit by foreign seaman against foreign shipowner. Re Lidoriki Maritime Corp. (1975, ED Pa) 404 F Supp 1402.
Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) is applicable to Korean seaman's suit against New York corporation where seaman sustained injuries in Alabama and was working at direction of Nigerian employer when accident occurred; although employer-employee relationship is essential to recovery, employer need not be owner or operator of vessel. Kwak Hyung Rok v Continental Seafoods, Inc. (1978, SD Ala) 462 F Supp 894, affd without op (CA5 Ala) 614 F2d 292 and affd without op (CA5 Ala) 614 F2d 292.
50. --Other American contacts present
Action under 46 USCS Appx section 688 for injuries sustained on ship flying Honduras flag could be maintained where it appeared that only contacts ship had with Honduras were flag and articles in that ship was owned by Liberian corporation, all stock of which was owned by Greek and American citizens, orders directing movements of vessel came partly from American and partly from Greek owners, members of crew were residents of Greece, except for two residents of United States, injury occurred in American port, and vessel had never, in any of its voyages, visited Hondurian port. Southern Cross S.S. Co. v Firipis (1960, CA4 Va) 285 F2d 651, 84 ALR2d 895, 1961 AMC 621, cert den 365 US 869, 5 L Ed 2d 859, 81 S Ct 903 and (disagreed with on other grounds Swain v Isthmian Lines, Inc. (CA3 Pa) 360 F2d 81) (disagreed with Chung, Yong Il v Overseas Navigation Co. (CA11 Ala) 774 F2d 1043, reh den, en banc (CA11 Ala) 779 F2d 60 and reh den, en banc (CA11 Ala) 779 F2d 60 and cert den (US) 90 L Ed 2d 346, 106 S Ct 1802)) and (disapproved on other grounds Griffin v Oceanic Contractors, Inc., 458 US 564, 73 L Ed 2d 973, 102 S Ct 3245, on remand (CA5 Tex) 685 F2d 139).
In wrongful death action brought by surviving widow and dependents of Greek seaman killed aboard vessel flying Greek flag and of Greek registry, owned by Liberian corporation, and operated by Panamanian corporation, United States law is appropriately applied where accident occurred in American port, to which seaman had flown to join vessel, and in which port he had worked during his entire service on vessel and vessel's entire service under its present ownership and its entire revenues arose from base of operations in United States. Fisher v The Agios Nicolaos v (1980, CA5 Tex) 628 F2d 308, 68 ALR Fed 342, reh den (CA5 Tex) 636 F2d 1107, reh den 636 F2d 1107 and cert den 454 US 816, 70 L Ed 2d 84, 102 S Ct 92, reh den 454 US 1129, 71 L Ed 2d 117, 102 S Ct 982.
Jurisdiction under Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) was properly denied to widow seeking to recover from employer of husband who died on employer's ship, where, although employer had American contracts and husband died while ship was berthed at American port, parties were Greek, ship was of Greek registry, and Greek law governed contracts. Dracos v Hellenic Lines, Ltd. (1983, CA4 Va) 705 F2d 1392. on reh, en banc (CA4 Va) 762 F2d 348, cert den (US) 88 L Ed 2d 288, 106 S Ct 311.
51. Foreign territorial waters or port
Statutes of United States should not be applied to claim of maritime tort, where Danish seaman while temporarily in New York, joined ship of Danish flag, owned by Danish citizen, and contract of employment provided that rights of crew members should be governed by Danish law, and seaman was negligently injured in foreign waters. Lauritzen v Larsen (1953) 345 US 571, 97 L Ed 1254, 73 S Ct 921, 1953 AMC 1210.
In actions for wrongful death and personal injury brought on behalf of citizens and domiciliaries of Trinidad who were injured aboard special-purpose, submersible drilling vessel which was drilling within Trinidad's territorial waters at time of accident, law of Trinidad, rather than Jones Act is properly applied, where vessel was conducting a substantial and rather permanent operation under license from Trinidad government within territorial waters of that nation, day-to-day operation was conducted and supervised by staff in Trinidad, Trinidad was place of wrongful act and place of contract and allegiance and domicile of injured workers. Phillips v Amoco Trinidad Oil Co. (1980, CA9 Cal) 632 F2d 82, cert den 451 US 920, 68 L Ed 2d 312, 101 S Ct 1999.
Jones Act applies in Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. Misch v Zee Enterprises, Inc. (1989, CA9 N Mariana Islands) 879 F2d 628.
Federal District Court did not have jurisdiction of action brought under 46 USCS Appx section 688, where seaman was Greek, signed for service aboard Greek ship and was injured in Japanese port. Tsitsinakis v Simpson, Spence & Young (1950, DC NY) 90 F Supp 578.
Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) is applicable to suit by representative of Scotish seaman who drowned in Port of Rotterdam, and seaman need not be on vessel of employment at time of death or injury. Allan v Brown & Root, Inc. (1980, SD Tex) 491 F Supp 398.
Foreign national's Jones Act (46 USCS section 688) and general maritime claims must be dismissed, where Jamaican citizen and resident was in Nova Scotia working as deckhand on Nova Scotia-to-Maine ferry owned by Panamanian and Bermuda corporations when he sustained serious back injuries during course of his duties, because choice-of-law analysis mandated by Supreme Court compels conclusion that American law does not apply in this case. Walters v Prince of Fundy Cruises, Ltd. (1991, DC Me) 781 F Supp 811.
Seaman's claim for injuries was barred by 46 USCS Appx section 688(b), where seaman sought damages for injuries suffered aboard vessel while he was stretching out tugger wire to be used in recovering pipeline marker buoys for oil rig, because seaman was involved in enterprise engaged in production of offshore energy resources, and injury occurred in territorial waters of nation other than U.S. Samuel v Tidewater Marine Servs. (1996, ED La) 943 F Supp 644.
52. --Other American contacts present
Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) was not applicable to claims arising from explosion and fire aboard crew launch in Lake Maracaibo Venezuela, where only factors favoring plaintiffs were law of forum and allegiance of shipowner while, on other hand, accident occurred in Venezuela, vessel was registered and sailed under Venezuelan flag, crewmen were all residents and citizens of Venezuela, employment contract was made in Venezuela, Venezuelan courts were available to parties, and shipowner's "base of operations" was in Venezuela. Chirinos de Alvarez v Creole Petroleum Corp. (1980, CA3 Del) 613 F2d 1240.
Law of Trinidad rather than United States law applies to wrongful death actions and person injury actions where plaintiffs were citizens of Trinidad and accident occurred in territorial waters off Trinidad coast on drilling rig which had to have been towed to drilling site, even though rig was documented under laws of United States and flew American flag. Phillips v Amoco Trinidad Oil Co. (1980, CA9 Cal) 632 F2d 82, cert den 451 US 920, 68 L Ed 2d 312, 101 S Ct 1999.
District Court properly dismissed actions under Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) brought by British citizens for damages resulting from injuries which occurred in North Sea off coast of Norway on semi-submersible vessel which was owned by American corporation and which flew American flag, in light of lack of substantial interests requiring application of American law where (1) plaintiffs had never lived or been present within United States, (2) injuries occurred in foreign territorial waters and (3) injuries occurred in context of "fixed rig" operations. Koke v Phillips Petroleum Co. (1984, CA5 Tex) 730 F2d 211.
Contention that vessel was owned by Americans was not sufficient to make Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) applicable to injury of sailor where vessel operated under flag of Panama, injury occurred in waters of Saudi Arabia, vessel's base of operations was limited to waters of Saudi Arabia, sailor was citizen and domiciliary of Philippines, and employment contract provided that Philippine law should apply. Villar v Crowley Maritime Corp. (1986, CA9 Cal) 782 F2d 1478.
Place of contract is irrelevant in determining applicability of Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) to suit for death of British West Indian seaman killed in Trinidad aboard Liberian vessel; in view of substantiality of American contacts present in case, largely fortuitous place of death is without substantial weight. Groves v Universe Tankships, Inc. (1970, SD NY) 308 F Supp 826.
Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) is not applicable to seaman injured off ship in Vietnam, despite American contacts, since injuries occurred off ship in foreign nation and were not suffered in course of employment. Russell v States S.S. Co. (1973, DC Or) 376 F Supp 233.
Seaman's Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) claim is barred by section 688(b), where Honduran seaman aboard U.S. flagged vessel was injured during course and scope of his employment while in territorial waters of Mexico, because seaman's claims fall squarely within prohibition of section 688(b) regardless of clause in working agreement designating U.S. courts as forum for resolving "labor disputes," which include disputes over wages, hours, or other terms of employment but not personal injury claims. Olin v Tidewater Inc. (1995, SD Tex) 897 F Supp 968.
Where deceased was member of crew of fishing vessel owned by citizens of United States, under United States registry, and operated out of California port, jurisdiction under 46 USCS Appx section 688 was in California, even though death occurred off coast of Ecuador. Correia v Van Camp Sea Food Co. (1952) 113 Cal App 2d 71, 248 P2d 81.
46 USCS Appx section 688 applies to injuries occurring on American vessels in foreign ports or harbors. Carrington v Panama Mail S.S. Co. (1929) 136 Misc 850, 241 NYS 347, 1930 AMC 289, revd on other grounds 232 App Div 695, 247 NYS 674, different results reached on reh 233 App Div 855, 251 NYS 803.
53. ----American seaman injured
American seaman injured on American vessel in course of his employment and due to negligence of his employer may maintain action under 46 USCS Appx section 688 in courts of United States--federal or state--although injury takes place in foreign port and in territorial waters of another nation. Panama R. Co. v Johnson (1924) 264 US 375, 68 L Ed 748, 44 S Ct 391; Alpha S.S. Corp. v Cain (1930) 281 US 642, 74 L Ed 1086, 50 S Ct 443.
Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) is applicable to injuries and death sustained by American seamen while they were being transported by local taxi operator in Trinidad where seamen of American ship were ill and were being transported from ship under federal law requiring that, in order to discharge incapacitated seaman in foreign port he must be taken to United States consulate where arrangements can be made for his return to United States, since local taxi driver was agent of shipowner for purposes of Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688). Hopson v Texaco, Inc. (1966) 383 US 262, 15 L Ed 2d 740, 86 S Ct 765.
Court would not apply Venezuelan law to deprive United States citizen of relief under 46 USCS Appx section 688 against United States corporation shipowner even though injury occurred in Venezuelan waters and parties were engaged in local enterprise (dredging harbor at Maracaibo Bay) and employment contract provided that employee would receive certain benefits of Venezuelan law. Farmer v Standard Dredging Corp. (1958, DC Del) 167 F Supp 381.
54. High seas
United States law does not apply to Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) action by American citizen arising out of accident that occurred on high seas, where vessel was Mexican and was based in Mexico, vessel owners and shareholders were Mexican citizens and residents, it was not unduly onerous for American citizen to make return trip to Mexico for trial, and written contract was made in Mexico. Bilyk v Vessel Nair (1985, CA9 Cal) 754 F2d 1541.
Jurisdiction under 46 USCS Appx section 688 was denied for want of even minimal connection with United States where facts indicated that of four defendants, only one was incorporated in United States, ship was owned by foreign shareholders, plaintiff was treated in United States hospital, and ship was destined for, but outside, United States waters at time of commission of tort. Brillis v Chandris (U.S.A.) Inc. (1963, SD NY) 215 F Supp 520, 1963 AMC 1742.
Greek law, not 46 USCS Appx section 688, was applicable in plaintiff-seaman's action where plaintiff signed employment contract in Greece, contract provided that dispute between parties would be resolved by Greek law, plaintiff was injured aboard vessel while it was on "high seas" en route to Virginia, corporation owning vessel was Panamanian controlled by Greek national having no contact with the United States, and vessel flew "flag of Greece." Sfiridas v Santa Cecelia Co., S.A. (1973, ED Pa) 358 F Supp 108, affd without op (CA3 Pa) 493 F2d 1401.
United States law was not applicable to action brought by representative of deceased seaman, notwithstanding that vessel was owned by Panamanian corporation which was wholly owned subsidiary of United States corporation, where (1) injury occurred either on high seas or in port of Honduras or Costa Rica, (2) seaman was Panamanian citizen who executed employment contract in Panama, (3) there was no evidence that Panamanian corporation was "facade" to enable United States corporation to avoid its obligations under United States maritime law, and (4) plaintiff, who was also citizen and resident of Panama, had already sued in Panama on same claim and had had that claim fully adjudicated; action would be dismissed on basis of forum non conveniens. De Mateos v Texaco Panama, Inc. (1976, ED Pa) 417 F Supp 411, affd (CA3 Pa) 562 F2d 895, cert den 435 US 904, 55 L Ed 2d 494, 98 S Ct 1449.
Plaintiff could not file complaint for damages under 46 USCS Appx section 688 where record reflected that: plaintiff was citizen and domiciliary of Spain; contract of employment was signed in Spain and was written in spanish and Norwegian; contract provided that plaintiff's rights and obligations were those under Norwegian law; plaintiff was receiving benefits in accord therewith; defendant was Norwegian corporation and ship, upon which plaintiff was employed, was of Norwegian flag and registry; accident occurred on High Seas off coast of Bahamas; and plaintiff's only contact with United States was upon ship's arrival in port to pick up passengers and supplies. Valverde v Klosters Rederi A/S (1974, Fla App D3) 294 So 2d 101.
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