Plaintiffs Cannot Be Seamen When Not Sail in Navigable Waters

Monday, August 12, 2002
In Solomon v. Blue Chip Casino, Inc., 2002 WL 1763935 (Ind.App. July 31, 2002), the court found the casino boat worker plaintiffs (a slot representative and a table games specialist) could not pursue Jones Act seaman claims against the vessel owner when the section of Trail Creek upon which the casino boat is moored in not "navigable in fact." The boat was situated in a "small, man-made, rectangular area of water that was dug out of dry land connected to Trail Creek by a narrow and shallow opening." The court found that while shallower draft recreational vessels may be able to, a commercial vessel such as the casino boat could not transit this two and a half feet deep section of Trail Creek out to Lake Michigan. The court also found that even though the Coast Guard had regulatory jurisdiction over the casino boat, since the Coast Guard's jurisdictional regulation was worded in broader terms than the "navigable in fact" requirement for admiralty jurisdiction, this was not sufficient to establish admiralty jurisdiction, and thus the plaintiffs could not be Jones Act seamen. Finally, the court held that the Indiana gaming statute's definition of navigable waters was also different than the more restrictive definition controlling admiralty jurisdiction. Source: Marine Legal Update

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