In Gaylor v. Canal Barge Co., Inc., Judge Helen Berrigan of the Eastern District of Louisiana considered a plaintiff's contributory negligence in relation to his Jones Act and unseaworthiness claims. No. 14-2398, slip op. (Sept. 11, 2015).
The plaintiff filed a complaint for damages under the Jones Act, general maritime law, and diversity claiming negligence and unseaworthiness as the cause of an accident that occurred when plaintiff attempted to pick up and move a box of groceries on the defendant's vessel. The defendant filed a motion for partial summary judgment on that the unseaworthiness and Jones Act claims were barred by contributory negligence.
Judge Berrigan noted that as she previously recognized in Patterson v. Omega Protein, Inc., 26 F.Supp.3d 544 (E.D.La 2014) that Jones Act and unseaworthiness claims related to lifting and carrying accidents are frequently barred or limited by the seaman's own fault. Several courts in the Eastern District of Louisiana have barred claims due to a plaintiff's failure to seek the help of others before attempting to lift. See, e.g., Williams v. Int'l Const. Group, LLC, 2011 WL 1116312 at *4 (E.D.La. March 23, 2011); Domingue v. Offshore Services Vessels, LLC, 2009 WL 3254147 (E.D.La. Oct. 7, 2009). Plaintiff had worked as a cook for fifteen years and admitted in deposition testimony that he was trained in safety lifting techniques by defendant as well as by other employers. In addition, Plaintiff chose to lift the box without asking for assistance. As a result, Judge Berrigan granted the motion for partial summary judgment, finding that the plaintiff's claims were barred by the plaintiff's own fault.