Are Riverboat Casinos Jones Act Vessels?
While Louisiana’s offshore industry is known thanks to the state’s oil industry, not every Louisianan offshore worker is on an oil rig. In fact, many residents of Louisiana are employed on one of the state’s many riverboat casinos. While oil rigs workers have been able to make Jones Act claims after an offshore accident, it hasn’t always been clear if riverboat casino workers can do the same. Looking at a recent case might help us understand if riverboat casinos can be Jones Act vessels.
Why Would a Riverboat Casino Worker Want to Make a Jones Act Claim?
Being able to make a Jones Act claim is important for workers for a variety of reasons. First, it entitles them to maintenance and cure from their employer. This means that their employer must pay for an injured employee’s medical (cure) and living expenses (maintenance) that they need because of a work-related injury. Second, being able to make a Jones Act claim would help an injured riverboat worker seek compensation for other damages caused by their accident that go beyond their lost wages and medical care.
What Is a Jones Act Vessel & Seaman?
Jones Act claims are only available for those who can prove they meet broad requirements. First, a worker needs to be employed on something that is considered a vessel under maritime law. According to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), a vessel is “every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water.” Second, according to SCOTUS, a seaman is anyone who works on a vessel and contributes in some way to “the vessel’s function or mission.” To find out more about the SCOTUS definition of a Jones Act vessel, read our blog on the subject.
Do Riverboat Casino Workers Satisfy These Requirements?
In a recent case, a worker filed a case against their employer, the owners of the Grand Palais Casino. The plaintiff was a scissor-lift operator who sustained injuries performing their job. Initially, a panel of the Third Circuit asserted that the casino was not a vessel because of its primary use as a dockside gambling location rather than transportation. However, during a hearing before all the judges of the Third Circuit—known as an en banc hearing—the court decided that the riverboat was a Jones Act vessel. So, the worker was a Jones Act seaman since they were contributing to the vessel’s main function as a casino.
In the decision, the court said that its reasoning was based on the fact that the law says that Jones Act vessels are vessels that “are capable of being used as a means of transportation on water.” While the Grand Palais Casino was not actively moving, its capability to do so made it a Jones Act vessel. While the Third Circuit didn’t expressly reveal why the ship’s mooring didn’t disqualify it as capable of transportation, it did refer say that the casino was “connected to the dock by temporary connections and gangways designed to be lifted and retracted.” In other words, it seems that the court decided that the riverboat’s mooring was not permanent enough to disqualify it as a Jones Act vessel with the capability of moving over water.
What Should You Do After a Riverboat Casino Accident?
If you’re a worker who has sustained injuries performing your duties on a riverboat casino, it’s important to remember that the case above is just an example. To determine if you can make a Jones Act claim, you should speak with an attorney from Arnold & Itkin. We’re ready to listen to what happened at no cost and help you decide your next steps. A member of our team is ready to talk when you call us at (888) 346-5024.