An injured Seaman settled a claim based on the Jones Act for $2 million. The 58-year-old worker was injured in 2010 at a port in South Korea while working onboard the S.S. Cape Jacob. The worker alleged he was ordered to secure a mooring line to the dock, but before he could secure the line, the ship captain ordered the tug to pull away, and the line snapped and hit him in the head.
As a result, he suffered a traumatic brain injury and compound fractures. The settlement was for past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, permanent disability, lost wages, and a diminished capacity to earn future wages.
Maritime attorney Matthew Shaffer, of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, represented the injured worker in filing a lawsuit against the federal government, claiming negligence under the Jones Act.
The Jones Act
The lawsuit was filed under the Jones Act of 1917 that gives sailors certain maritime rights including the right to sue the crew, captain or shipowner of any U.S. flagged ship. The S.S. Jacob was a military ship, and thus the worker sued the federal government. Typically, the government is immune from lawsuits from civilian workers, however, the Jones Act gives them the right to sue under certain circumstances.
Aside from seaman and other maritime workers, many people are calling for the end of the Jones Act. Not because it gives workers the right to sue the government, but because it adds costs to goods shipped from a US port to another US port.
The act was implemented at the end of WWI to stimulate shipping in the US. Along with giving certain rights to sailors, the act requires that any shipment of goods from a US port to a US port has to use a ship built in the US.
With most commercial ships being built overseas, there is a shortage of cargo space to ship goods within the US which dramatically increases the shipping rates—in some cases the rates are doubled. One fallout of this settlement might be more fodder for those looking to end the Jones Act.