Ship Owner May Sue Injured Seaman

Friday, December 09, 2005
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that a ship owner may assert a negligence and indemnity claim against its seaman-employee for property damage allegedly caused by the seaman’s negligence. In the instant case, plaintiff mate was injured when his ship collided with another ship. Plaintiff was on watch and in command of the ship at the time and allegedly left the wheelhouse in congested waters to attend to personal business. Plaintiff brought suit against the other ship and against defendant employer under the Jones Act and general maritime law. Defendant settled with the other ship and then filed a counterclaim against plaintiff. The trial court dismissed the counterclaim and defendant appealed. The appellate court ruled that it is a well-accepted principle that an employer has a right of action against its employee for property damage arising out of negligence committed within the scope of employment. The court further ruled that there is nothing in the Jones Act or the underlying Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) that abrogates this principle. Source: HK Law
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