On Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit addressed the question of whether the 1962 U.S. Supreme Court holding in Vaughan v. Atkinson, 369 U.S. 527 (1962) requires courts hearing maintenance and cure cases to construe disputed medical evidence in the seaman’s favor. In Witbart v. Mandara Spa (Hawaii), LLC

In In re Deepwater Horizon, No. 20-30300, 2021 WL 96168, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal held that fishermen who intentionally came upon the scene of the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon failed to state a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress under general maritime law.  The district

On January 25, 2021, the United States Supreme Court dismissed, as “improvidently granted,” a writ of certiorari it had previously granted on a petition asking it to consider “[w]hether a provision in an arbitration agreement that exempts certain claims from arbitration negates an otherwise clear and unmistakable delegation of questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator.” 

In Sanchez v. Smart Fabricators of Texas, LLC, 970 F.3d 550,  a three-judge panel of the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal held on August 14, 2020, that seaman status under the Jones Act may apply to an injured welder on a jack-up oil rig adjacent to an inland pier. Maintaining that the plaintiff qualified as a seaman under controlling Fifth Circuit precedent but questioning that precedent in light of Supreme Court case law, the panel urged the Fifth Circuit to review the case en banc.
Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Identifies Potential Conflict with Supreme Court on Jones Act Seaman Test

On July 15, 2020, the Unites States Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) issued a ruling (HQ H309672) in connection with the installation of an offshore wind farm located off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts in U.S. territorial waters (the “July 15 Ruling”).  CBP determined that activities to be conducted in connection with the installation of offshore wind turbine generator (“WTG”) units using a non-coastwise-qualified jack up vessel (i.e., not a Jones Act compliant vessel) (the “Installation Vessel”) did not violate the Jones Act (46 U.S.C. § 55102) (or the Passenger Vessel Services Act (46 U.S.C. § 55103)).
Continue Reading U.S. Customs Revokes Recent Offshore Wind Ruling; Maintains Uncertainty Whether the Jones Act Applies to Wind Farm Installations on the OCS

In Mays v. Chevron Pipe Line Co., 2020 WL 4432025, a three-judge panel of the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal held on August 3, 2020, that the Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act may apply to an injury in state territorial waters if there is a substantial nexus between an employee’s injury and his employer’s, both direct and statutory, extractive operations on the Outer Continental Shelf.
Continue Reading U.S. Fifth Circuit Clarifies “Substantial Nexus” Test for LHWCA

Today, countries worldwide are responding to a pandemic of respiratory disease spreading from person-to-person caused by a novel coronavirus.  The disease has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).  The pandemic poses a serious public health risk, and government response has included closure of schools and businesses, declarations of emergency, and issuance of a variety of “stay home” orders—typically instructing all but “essential personnel” to remain in their residences other than to gather necessaries.  These events have dramatically impacted the world economy, and wreaked havoc on the day-to-day functions of individuals and businesses in the United States and elsewhere.  Does this pandemic and resultant disruption constitute a force majeure event under Louisiana and Texas law?


Continue Reading COVID-19 as a Force Majeure? The Texas and Louisiana Perspectives

In response to the continuing COVID-19 epidemic, the United States Coast Guard, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have issued a series of administrative guidelines or regulations broadly affecting international maritime commerce. In addition to this agency action, the AWO and other sectors of the maritime industry have voluntarily formulated several response plans aimed at protecting the nation’s vital maritime commerce during this public emergency. We have reviewed these guidelines and regulations, and have organized them into general topics of common questions in our industry.


Continue Reading Maritime Industry COVID 19 Update

In a stark reminder of the sanctity of Coast Guard investigations, and the consequences of impeding such investigations, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently took action against a maritime employer for allegedly retaliating against a seaman who cooperated with the Coast Guard in connection with its investigation of a maritime casualty.  On October 20, 2017, Bouchard Transportation’s ATB BUSTER BOUCHARD/B. NO. 255 suffered an explosion and fire while transporting roughly 2,000 barrels of oil off Port Aransas, Texas.  Two crewmembers perished as a result of the casualty.  The brother of one of the deceased crewmembers, who also happened to be a Bouchard Transportation employee, cooperated with the Coast Guard in the ensuing investigation.  Three months later, the surviving brother was terminated without explanation.  OSHA found the termination constituted a retaliatory discharge in violation of the Seaman’s Protection Act (46 U.S.C. §2114) (the “SPA”).  In broad terms, the SPA prohibits maritime employers from terminating or discriminating against seamen who cooperate with Coast Guard, Department of Labor or National Transportation Safety Board investigations.  The obvious intent of the SPA is to guaranty “that, when seamen provide information of dangerous situations to the Coast Guard, they will be free from the “debilitating threat of employment reprisals for publicly asserting company violations” of maritime statutes or regulations.”  Gaffney v. Riverboat Services of Indiana, Inc., 451 F.3d 424, 444 (7th Cir. 2006).  In 2010, Congress empowered OSHA to administer claims arising under the SPA.


Continue Reading OSHA Awards Damages for Retaliatory Discharge of Jones Act Seaman in Violation of Seaman’s Protection Act

The saga of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) ten-year effort to amend its interpretation of key components of the Jones Act continues.  After failed attempts to expand the scope of the Jones Act’s prohibition on activities by non-coastwise endorsed vessels in 2009 and 2017, CBP recently published a notice of proposed modification and revocation of certain ruling letters interpreting the Jones Act (see https://liskow.sharefile.com/d-s45a327d7ae7441e9). Unlike its recent, unsuccessful efforts to amend its interpretations, the current proposal attempts to expand one prohibition while narrowing another.


Continue Reading Possible Change to Jones Act Interpretations Regarding Coastwise Activities