Port Engineer Who Worked Mostly on Stationary Vessels Entitled to Jury Trial on Seaman Status

In Haas v. Beatty Street Properties, Inc., 2014 WL 2932258 (S.D. Tex. June 27, 2014), Timothy Haas worked as an assistant port engineer for Beatty Street Properties, Inc. (“BSP”). His job was to maintain the mechanical systems on BSP’s boats.  He spent about 90% of his working hours on the boats, which were docked about 60% of the time. But, about 40% of the time, the boats were moving, often carrying pilots to ships.  One day, while working on a docked boat, Haas claimed he injured his lower back while handling a water pump.

BSP asked the court to dismiss his Jones Act case, arguing Haas couldn’t possibly be a seaman.  The court refused Haas’ employer’s motion, citing the Fifth Circuit’s 2014 decision in Naquin v. Elevating Boats, L.L.C., 744 F.3d 927 (5th Cir. 2014).  Judge Costa found that the appeals court in Naquin had held that “an employee who performed nearly all of his work on docked vessels was a seaman.”  Accordingly, the court ruled Haas was entitled to a jury trial on whether he qualified as a seaman under the Jones Act.

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Our law firm, Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, regularly represents crewmen (including cooks, engineers, mates, deckhands, pilots, and captains) of towboats, tugs, barges, and other commercial vessels, as well as passengers aboard cruise and excursion boats and ships. If you have questions about your or your family’s legal rights under the Jones Act or the general maritime law, also known as “admiralty law,” feel free to contact Fred Goldsmith or Rich Ogrodowski toll-free at 877-404-6529 (toll-free), 412-281-4340, or via e-mail at info@golawllc.com.  Our website is www.golawllc.com.  We practice primarily in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, but also all over the inland waterways.

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