Negligence Under the Jones Act

Tuesday, April 04, 2006
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a maritime employer may be liable to an injured seaman if its failure to comply with a Coast Guard regulation played any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury. In the instant case, plaintiff deckhand was periodically required to do free dives (dives without scuba gear) to retrieve mooring lines that had sunk to the sea floor. Plaintiff was an experienced free diver. On one occasion, plaintiff failed to properly equalize the hyperbaric pressure in his left ear on descent and suffered injury. Plaintiff brought suit against his employer alleging, among other things, that defendant failed to have a diving operations manual as required by US Coast Guard regulations. The trial court ruled that there was no negligence per se because the regulations only applied to scuba diving, not free diving. On appeal, the court ruled that, in a case brought under the Jones Act, plaintiff need not demonstrate that he or she was a member of the intended beneficiaries of the regulation, only that the injury might have been prevented if the employer had been in compliance. MacDonald v. Kahikolu Ltd., No. 04-15979 Source: HK Law

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