Jones Act Confidential Settlement, St. Louis City

Confidential Settlement

Plaintiff alleged that while attempting to check tow as a lead-man he slipped and fell severely injuring his right knee which required surgery. Moreover, Plaintiff claimed that he would require additional medical treatment for his injuries and Defendant failed to maintenance and cure him. Plaintiff brought his action pursuant to the provisions of Title 46 U.S.C., Section 688, et seq., commonly called the Jones Act and General Maritime Laws of the United States.

Plaintiff’s case was filed in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, State of Missouri pursuant to R.S.Mo. § 347.069 prior to tort reform occurring on August 25, 2005. Thereafter, the Court by consent of the parties transferred to the case to the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, State of Missouri.

Plaintiff alleged several theories of negligence against the Defendant. First, Plaintiff alleged was negligent in maintaining equipment and the vessel. Secondly, Plaintiff alleged his employer had provided an unseaworthy vessel as barges to which said vessel was towing lacked adequate non-skid and/or non-slip paint thus creating a dangerous condition. Therefore, in reliance of Seas Shipping Co., Inc. v. Sieracki, 328 U.S. 85, 94 (1946), Plaintiff alleged that his employers’ duty to provide a seaworthy ship was absolute and non-delegable.

Finally, Plaintiff alleged cumulative trauma to his knee as a result of working on steel surfaces for eleven (11) years for the Defendant. Defendant moved for summary judgment prior to trial stating Plaintiff’s claims should be barred under maritime law by the Primary Duty Rule. As such his employer claimed that Plaintiff’s failure to place non-skid paint on the deck of the vessel caused his injuries.

The Court denied Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and held that the Jones Act is a broad remedial statute that must be liberally construed to further its humanitarian goal of holding barge companies responsible for the dangers to which their employees are exposed. Likewise, other Missouri courts have held that only a very small amount of evidence is required to establish liability in a Jones Act case. Under Missouri law the evidence needed to establish liability in a Jones Act case much less than in an ordinary negligence action. See also, Duncan v. American Commercial Barge Line, LLC, 166 S.W.3d 78 (Mo. App. E.D. 2004).

Subsequent to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment being denied by the Court the parties reached a confidential settlement agreement.

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