HomeCircuit Court Admiralty CasesSeaworthiness

The following are digests and case links to Circuit Court Admiralty Cases that have as an issue seaworthiness:

Hopkins v. Jordan Marine, Inc.
First Circuit Court of Appeals
October 29, 2001

Jones Act/Seaworthiness: although the district court at one point told the jury: "If you find that the plaintiff's alleged injuries were the result of his failing to observe an obvious condition, you will find for the defendant," this was not an impermissible instruction based on the doctrine of "assumption of the risk"; the sentence does not say that assumption of an obvious risk is a defense to unseaworthiness or negligence on the part of the shipowner, but said that a ship is not unseaworthy or an owner negligent merely because the owner does not anticipate that a crew member will behave negligently. 

Jackson v. OMI Co.
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
April 4, 2001

Jones Act/Seaworthiness: the district court's findings that the vessel owner was negligent and that the vessel was unseaworthy were clearly erroneous since there was no evidence to support such findings where the plaintiff seaman had stumbled over a hatch coaming and fallen simply because he did not pick his feet up high enough; the district court's finding that the vessel was unseaworthy for lack of a handhold at the doorway was clearly erroneous since the evidence showed that the design of the doorway in question was dictated by federal regulations, there was no evidence indicating where such a handrail might be placed or that the installation of a handrail would reduce accident rates and the record was uncontroverted that crew members passing through the doorway can use the usual structural members ordinarily found on vessel passageways as steadying points.

Folger Coffee Co. v. Olivebank
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
February 3, 2000

General Average: the vessel was seaworthy under COGSA at the commencement of the voyage, thus cargo interests had no defense to vessel's general average claim; Seaworthiness: open skylight and vent covers allowing entry of sea water that caused the emergency electrical system to fail constituted an error in management of the ship, not unseaworthiness.

Perkins v. American Electric Power
Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
April 6, 2001

Jones Act: the district court erred in denying plaintiff recovery since he proved vessel negligence by establishing that defendants knew of the risk that the ratchet he was using at the time of his injury could fail and also knew that a seaman could fall from the tow knee where he was working since another seaman on the tug and barge had fallen from the tow knee one month earlier, nevertheless defendants failed to adequately guard against these risks; Seaworthiness: the district court also erred in denying plaintiff recovery based on unseaworthiness since he proved that defendants failed to provide vessel equipment, in this case a ratchet, reasonably fit for its intended purpose and failed to provide adequate safety equipment, such as a safety rope, for his safety.

Britton v. U.S.S Great Lakes Fleet
Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
September 9, 2002

Maintenance and Cure: Where a seaman is required to provide pre-employment
medical information, and he intentionally misrepresents or conceals material medical facts, he is not entitled to an award of maintenance and cure if the injury incurred is causally linked to the concealed medical condition. However, the employer must show that the non-disclosed medical information was material to its decision to hire the seaman to successfully defend against maintenance and cure. Since there was an issue of fact in this case whether the non-disclosed condition was material to the owner's decision to hire plaintiff, the district court erred in dismissing plaintiff's claim on motion for summary judgment. Seaworthiness: Unseaworthiness is a claim under general maritime law based on the vessel owner’s duty to ensure that the vessel is reasonably fit to be at sea. The warranty of seaworthiness requires that the ship, including the hull, decks, and machinery, be reasonably fit for the purpose for which they are used. Plaintiff's allegation that the vessel was unseaworthy because there was a shortage of crew available to open the stairwell covers and vent hatches, which lead to his having to perform those tasks alone resulting in his back injury, was sufficient to raise an issue of fact to be resolved by a jury. Jones Act: Plaintiff's allegation that the health care provider assigned by the owner failed to exercise due care when reassigning plaintiff back to work was a sufficient allegation of Jones Act negligence to be resolved by a jury.

Arkansas State Highways Comm. v. Arkansas River Co.
Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
October 16, 2001

Seaworthiness/Casualties/Charter Parties: because the United States Army Corps of Engineers ("Corps"), the owner of the barge, tendered the barge to the tug's captain with a boom that was unobviously raised such that it could not pass safely under a Mississippi River bridge, the barge was unseaworthy on delivery and the Corps was 100% liable for the resulting damages.

In re Marine Asbestos Cases
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
September 10, 2001

Jones Act/Maintenance & Cure/Seaworthiness: plaintiff seamen, none of whom had been diagnosed with an asbestos-related medical condition, had no claim under the Jones Act or under the doctrines of seaworthiness and maintenance & cure for the costs of medical monitoring that would provide each plaintiff with a single baseline medical examination.

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