Jones Act Helps Set Level Of Safety, Jones Act Lawyer Shows
A federal Labor Department seaman’s safety representative described the risks of a seaman’s daily life, pointing to statistics showing “seamen have among the most dangerous jobs in America.” To help make the maritime workplace safer, the Jones Act remains one of the most important safety acts in the industry. The labor representative noted there are also other safety standards, often negotiated by employers with employee associations or unions, and sometimes with a Jones Act lawyer, to have even higher safety standards. The labor department spokesman commented that “talking with a Jones Act lawyer is a sort of additional insurance to have those rights protected.”
In a recent case, a Jones Act lawyer tried to introduce agreements about workplace safety. The trial court (incorrectly) refused to let the Jones Act lawyer use the evidence. On appeal, the Jones Act lawyer argued successfully that the trial court should have allowed these two contracts into evidence. The Jones Act lawyer pointed out that they had been signed by vessel owners, and made promises to observe certain safety standards. In this case, noted the Jones Act lawyer, there were actually two separate contracts. One was between vessel owners and the general contractor for the project…which included safety rules for the workers, said the Jones Act lawyer. The other agreement was between vessel owners and the injured seaman’s union (a collective bargaining agreement). That second agreement, proved the Jones Act lawyer, had even more safety requirements. For example, showed the Jones Act lawyer, for vessel owners to comply with safety rules of the State’s Construction Safety Orders about “Runways for Foot Traffic.” These rules were especially important, since the accident in the case was shown by the Jones Act lawyer to have happened on a gangplank:
“a. Except as provided elsewhere, ramps or runways erected for the use of workmen shall be not less than 20 inches in width, and shall be supported so as to avoid deflection or springing action.”
Jones Act Lawyer Explained How Contracts Added Extra Protections For Seamen
The Jones Act lawyer said the parties had a contractual right to specify a higher “standard of care” to be used than that established by the Jones Act. This right to more safety, the Jones Act lawyer was to show, gave certain rights to the injured seaman as a “beneficiary” of the contract. In other words, the seaman was entitled to the protection of the standards in the Jones Act, and also under the contract, the Jones Act lawyer said.
The vessel owners argued that the federal Jones Act was “supreme” over all other safety rules, so that “state safety orders” couldn’t apply. The employer tried to argue (unsuccessfully) that allowing these kinds of private agreements would put a state’s laws too much into the federal Act. That argument, the Jones Act lawyer insisted, “misses the point.” The Jones Act lawyer took the employer’s argument apart, by pointing out that the Jones Act seems to “welcome” higher standards for safety. Vessel owners voluntarily contracted to follow certain additional safety rules. The Jones Act lawyer also suggested the source of the wording in the agreement “was irrelevant.” Besides, these higher safety standards wouldn’t even be from any action of the State, observed the Jones Act lawyer. The higher safety rules came strictly from agreements of the parties, the Jones Act lawyer had proven.
“Better Safety” Is A Good Thing, Argued Jones Act Lawyer
The Jones Act lawyer knew there were no earlier court decisions on this question, so it was an important case. But since the effect of the agreements was to raise or make more definite the standard of care required, public policy, the Jones Act lawyer stressed, would favor the agreements and the admitting them as evidence.
The Jones Act lawyer did point out one similar case, where an injured employee had sued under the Federal Employers Liability Act— an act similar to the Jones Act, mentioned the Jones Act lawyer. The court in that case did consider an agreement between the employee’s union and the employer, where a standard of care had safety rules over and above the federal law. In that case, the court admitted evidence of those safety standards. The appeals court agreed with the Jones Act lawyer, and said the contracts and the negotiated safety standards were relevant to the vessel owner’s liability. As the Jones Act lawyer had asked, these important safety agreements and contracts were then ordered to be received into evidence.
In any case involving an injury, a seaman should get help right away. As this case showed, there’s always a chance that there are also safety rules in addition to the Jones Act. Consulting with a Jones Act lawyer will uncover a seaman’s full rights to all safety standards.