According to a report from The Waterways Journal Weekly, a key Jones Act claim is currently pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The case, Sanchez v. Smart Fabricators of Texas, could have significant implications for many maritime workers. In this article, our Texas Jones Act lawyers provide an overview of the background, the facts, the dispute, and the stakes.
Case Analysis: Sanchez v. Smart Fabricators of Texas
Background and Facts
The plaintiff in this case is a man named Gilbert Sanchez. Mr. Sanchez worked as a welder for a company called Smart Fabricators of Texas. He was seriously injured on the job when he tripped on a pipeline. At the time of his accident, Mr. Sanchez was working aboard an offshore oil platform, out in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas.
He filed a lawsuit against his employer. Of course, most workers are prevented from filing such a legal claim. They are required to go through the relevant workers’ compensation insurance system. However, under the Jones Act, seamen have a federal right to file a lawsuit directly against an employer.
The Legal Issue: Who is Covered by the Jones Act?
The core legal issue in this case is relatively straightforward: Does the plaintiff qualify as a Seaman for the purposes of the Jones Act. If so, he has a right to file an injury lawsuit against his employer. If not, then his legal claim generally falls under a workers’ compensation program. Under federal case law, a worker only qualifies as a seaman if he or she meets the following two criteria:
- The worker’s job duties contribute to the function or mission of a vessel; and
- The connection between the employee’s and the vessel is “substantial” in both duration and nature.
There is no dispute that Mr. Sanchez’s work contributed to a vessel’s mission. However, his employer is challenging the “substantialness” element. In defending the legal action, they argue that his contribution was not significant enough to qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act.
What it Means for Maritime Workers
This case has important implications for maritime workers. In adjudicating this case, the Fifth Circuit is set to rule on who exactly qualifies for protections under the Jones Act. If they rule in favor of Mr. Sanchez, more workers will be protected. However, if the court rules against the plaintiff, it would narrow the scope of the Jones Act in Texas, Louisanna, and Mississippi. The case could potentially be appealed to the Supreme Court by either party.
Contact Our Texas Jones Act Attorneys for Immediate Help
At the Kolodny Law Firm, our Texas maritime law attorneys fight aggressively to protect the legal rights and financial interests of our clients. If you have any questions or concerns about your options under the Jones Act, our legal team can help. Contact us today for a free, strictly confidential initial consultation. From our office in Houston, we are proud to serve communities throughout the State of Texas.