John Jones v. Cooper T. Smith Stevedoring Co., Inc

[B]Case Name: [/B][I]John Jones v. Cooper T. Smith Stevedoring Co., INC.
[/I][B]Date Decided: [/B]November 17, 2009 [B]Court: [/B]United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
[B]Judge: [/B]Judge Garza, Judge Clement, Judge Owen
[B]Citation: [/B]2009 WL 3833922( C.A.5(La.))[B]Background:
[/B]John Jones, plaintiff, sustained injuries while working for Cooper T. Stevedoring Co, Inc (Cooper). Jones was injured in the hold of a cargo barge in the Mississippi River as a longshoreman. Jones filed an action under the Jones Act, and alternatively under the Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”) for vessel negligence.

The cargo barge Jones was working on was moored to a crane barge owned by Cooper. At the time of his injury, Cooper was responsible for using the crane on the crane barge to transfer cargo from the hold of another vessel. Jones’s duty was to unhook the cargo as it was lowered onto the cargo barge by the crane. Jones was injured when a load of cargo struck him and pinned him against the wall of the barge.

After filing under both the LHWCA and Jones Act, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Cooper on the Jones Act claim, holding he did not qualify as a seaman and also on the LHWCA claim upon finding Jones’s injuries were not caused by negligence of the vessel but negligence of persons providing stevedoring services to the vessel.

Jones appealed the granting of summary judgment against his LHWCA claim.

[/B]Did the District Court err in finding Jones’s injuries were caused by negligence of other people providing stevedoring services rather than vessel negligence?

[/B]Jones argued that there are genuine issues of material fact whether the employees that he contends were negligent were acting in their capacities as stevedores or agents for the vessel owners.

Jones asserted Casey Curtis, the job superintendent, was negligent in conducting the safety meeting before the operation by failing to hold the meeting with both longshoremen and crane operators. Jones also alleged that Stephen Taylor, the crane operator who oversaw a trainee operating the crane when the incident occurred, was negligent in his supervision of the trainee. Specifically, Jones claimed that the trainee operated the crane differently than what the longshoremen expected.

Accordingly, Jones argued that these acts of supervisory negligence were related to the “corporate concern and interests” of Cooper and therefore, the actions were made in the employees’ capacities as the agents of the vessel owner.

This Court, however, found that these acts of negligence were in the men’s capacities as stevedores. Holding an improper safety meeting and improper supervision of a trainee loading and unloading cargo relate to traditional stevedoring activities and have no ascertainable tie to vessel negligence.

This Court held that the alleged negligence does not relate to vessel conditions or a vessel mission but that it relates [I]solely to stevedoring operations [/I]and therefore the district court’s granting of summary judgment was proper.

The LHWCA creates a compensation scheme for injured longshoremen, much like state workers’ compensation laws, that generally replaces negligence causes of against employers. Longshoremen, however, are permitted to sue for injuries resulting from negligence of a vessel. [/B]

[B]A vessel owner may be liable to an employee injured during the stevedoring operation under three circumstances. [/B]

[B]1. The owner fails to warn on turning over the ship of hidden defects, of which he should have known [/B]

[B]2. For injury caused by hazards under the control of the ship and[/B]

[B]3. If the vessel owner fails to intervene in the stevedore’s operations when he has [I]actual knowledge [/I]of the hazard the stevedore, in the exercise of improper judgment, means to work on in the face of it and therefore cannot be relied on to remedy it. [/B]

[B]Steve Gordon *[/B]