PA Rule not Applicable to Jones Act

Friday, August 13, 2004
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided that the Pennsylvania Rule is not applicable to cases of seaman personal injury brought under the Jones Act. In the instant case, plaintiff’s decedent had been employed as a crewmember on defendant’s vessels. After leaving such employment, decedent was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, for which he later died. Plaintiff brought suit against defendant, alleging that the cancer was due, in part, to decedent’s exposure to benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) while working on the vessels. Plaintiff alleged that the level of benzene and PAHs on the vessels exceeded that allowed by Coast Guard regulations and, because of such alleged violation, the burden of proof should be shifted to defendant to show that such violation did not cause the cancer, in accordance with the Pennsylvania Rule. The court held that the Pennsylvania Rule was intended to address collisions and related maritime casualties and is not applicable to seaman personal injury cases such as this where the fact pattern is much more attenuated. Wills v. Amerada Hess Corp., No. 02-7913 (2nd Cir.) (HK Law)

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