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Port Engineer Who Worked Mostly on Stationary Vessels Entitled to Jury Trial on Seaman Status
Published: July 4, 2014
By: Frederick B. Goldsmith
In Haas v. Beatty Street Properties, Inc., 2014 WL 2932258 (S.D. Tex. June 27, 2014), Timothy Haas worked as an assistant port engineer for Beatty Street Properties, Inc. (“BSP”). His job was to maintain the mechanical systems on BSP’s boats. He spent about 90% of his working hours on the boats, which were docked about 60% of the time. But, about 40% of the time, the boats were moving, often carrying pilots to ships. One day, while working on a docked boat, Haas claimed he injured his lower back while handling a water pump.
BSP asked the court to dismiss his Jones Act case, arguing Haas couldn’t possibly be a seaman. The court refused Haas’ employer’s motion, citing the Fifth Circuit’s 2014 decision in Naquin v. Elevating Boats, L.L.C., 744 F.3d 927 (5th Cir. 2014). Judge Costa found that the appeals court in Naquin had held that “an employee who performed nearly all of his work on docked vessels was a seaman.” Accordingly, the court ruled Haas was entitled to a jury trial on whether he qualified as a seaman under the Jones Act.