An Employer Does Not Need to Own or Operate A Vessel That A Seaman Works On In Order to Be Held Liable Under the Jones Act

FEBRUARY 24, 2011 by Bill Abbott

In some cases, it is not always clear who the “employer” in a Jones Act case is. This is especially true where contractors or sub-contractors work on a vessel that is rented out for a particular job by a company that is different from the one that hired you. Galveston Jones Act lawyers have litigated a number of these types of cases in recent years. Galveston Jones Act lawyers have recognized that a unique problem is presented in these types of cases where more than one potential “employer” is involved.

This type of scenario has been termed the “borrowed employee doctrine” by the courts and Galveston Jones Act lawyers. This doctrine was discussed at length in Guidry v. South Louisiana Contractors, Inc., 614 F.2d 447 (5th Cir. 1980). In that case, Guidry was employed by South Louisiana Contractors. This company owned a number of vessels that it regularly rented out to other companies. In this case, the company had rented out a vessel to Messina Contractors for a specific period of time for the purpose of completing a job. The deal between the two companies required Messina to use South Louisiana’s crew because they were familiar with the way that the vessel worked. Guidry was injured while working for Messina Contractors and filed a Jones Act claim to receive compensation for his injury.

Guidry originally filed his Jones Act lawsuit against both South Louisiana Contractors and Messina Contractors. Messina settled their case by offering Guidry $75,000 for his injury. Therefore, the only question that was left for the court to answer was whether South Louisiana Contactors could be considered Guidry’s “employer” for purposes of the Jones Act even if they were not in control of the operation of the vessel at the time of the injury.

The court held that it was not necessary for the employer to be either the owner or the operator of the vessel and that it was possible for independent contractors to be held liable under the Jones Act. The court also stated that, “a third person who borrows a worker may become his employer if the borrowing employer assumes enough control over the worker. However, even if a seaman is deemed to be a borrowed employee of one employer, this does not automatically mean that he ceases to be his immediate employer’s servant for Jones Act purposes.”

If you are a contract or maritime worker in the Galveston area who has been injured in a work-related accident you might be wondering if this scenario applies to your case. The easiest way to get answers is by contacting the local Galveston Jones Act lawyers in your area. Galveston Jones Act lawyers will be able to assess your case and determine who may be liable for your injuries. Galveston Jones Act lawyers can also inform you of your rights under the law and defend your case in court.


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