Foreign Arbitral Awards Convention trumps Jones Act

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that a mandatory arbitration clause in a maritime employment contract is enforceable despite the plaintiff alleging a personal injury claim under the Jones Act. In the instant case, plaintiff entered into an employment agreement with defendant company that led to his working as a barge leaderman on an offshore oil and gas project in Nigerian waters. The contract provided for mandatory arbitration of all disputes. After plaintiff was severely injured while working on the barge, he brought suit under the Jones Act and general maritime law. Plaintiff contended that the Foreign Arbitral Awards Convention Act exempts contracts of employment of seamen from its coverage and thus the arbitration clause should be unenforceable. The court held that, because the employment contract provided for the work to be performed outside the United States, the Convention applied and the Convention has no seaman exception. Freudensprung v. Offshore Technical Services, Inc., No. 03-20226 (5th Cir.) (HK Law)

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