US: Gulf of Mexico Oil and Gas Spar is Not a “Vessel”; Jones Act Claim Fails

A worker employed on “the Mad Dog,” an oil and gas spar platform in the Gulf of Mexico on the Outer Continental Shelf and injured when he was testing one of the Mad Dog’s lifeboats was not a “seaman” under the Jones Act and his Jones Act claim could not proceed, held a federal district court recently, because the oil drilling platform upon which he worked was not a vessel, but rather a permanent structure attached to the seabed.  The platform, which had no steering mechanism, system of self-propulsion, or raked bow, was capable of movement in a 180-to-221 foot radius, but had not moved in four years.  Citing Stewart v. Dutra Constr. Co., 543 U.S. 481, 490, 125 S. Ct. 1118, 160 L. Ed. 2d 932 (2005), the district court stated that a watercraft was not capable of being used for maritime transport in any meaningful sense if it had been permanently moored or other rendered incapable of transportation or movement.  Since the Mad Dog was tethered to the seabed 4,500 feet below by eleven polyester rope and chain mooring lines, it was not practically capable of maritime transportation and the injured worker was, therefore, not a Jones Act seaman, and his claims under the Jones Act failed.

Reported by Thomas A. Robinson, J.D.

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to lexis.com.

See Riley v. Alexander/Ryan Marine Servs. Co., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152742 (S.D. Tex., Oct. 24, 2013) [2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152742 (S.D. Tex., Oct. 24, 2013)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 146.02 [146.02]

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