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The test of seaman status under the Jones Act is an employment-related connection to a vessel in navigation. The test will be met where a jury finds that (1) a plaintiff contributed to the function of, or helped accomplish the mission of, a vessel; (2) the plaintiff's contribution was limited to a particular vessel or identifiable group of vessels; (3) the plaintiff's contribution was substantial in terms of its (a) duration or (b) nature; and (4) the course of the plaintiff's employment regularly exposed the plaintiff to the hazards of the sea.
Respondent Latsis' duties as a superintendent engineer for petitioner Chandris, Inc., required him to take voyages on Chandris' ships. He lost substantial vision in one eye after a condition that he developed while on one of those voyages went untreated by a ship's doctor. Following his recuperation, he sailed to Germany on the S. S. Galileo and stayed with the ship while it was in drydock for refurbishment. Subsequently, he sued Chandris for damages for his eye injury under the Jones Act, which provides a negligence cause of action for "any seaman" injured "in the course of his employment." The District Court instructed the jury that Latsis was a "seaman" if he was permanently assigned to, or performed a substantial part of his work on, a vessel, but that the time Latsis spent with the Galileo while it was in drydock could not be considered because the vessel was then out of navigation. The jury returned a verdict for Chandris based solely on Latsis' seaman status. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment, finding that the jury instruction improperly framed the issue primarily in terms of Latsis' temporal relationship to the vessel. It held that the "employment-related connection to a vessel in navigation" required for seaman status under the Jones Act, McDermott Int'l, Inc. v. Wilander, 498 U.S. 337, 355, 112 L. Ed. 2d 866, 111 S. Ct. 807, exists where an individual contributes to a vessel's function or the accomplishment of its mission; the contribution is limited to a particular vessel or identifiable group of vessels; the contribution is substantial in terms of its duration or nature; and the course of the individual's employment regularly exposes him to the hazards of the sea. It also found that the District Court erred in instructing the jury that the Galileo's drydock time could not count in the substantial connection equation.
Did the status as "seaman" under Jones Act require worker's employment-related connection to vessel in navigation that is substantial in terms of both duration and nature?
The court affirmed the order vacating the judgment, holding that the employment-related connection to a vessel in navigation that is necessary for a maritime worker to qualify as a "seaman" under the Jones Act comprises two basic elements, namely that the worker's duties must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission, and the worker must have a connection to a vessel in navigation or an identifiable group of vessels that is substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature. With respect to the case at hand, the part of the District Court's jury instructions relating to the vessel's drydock period was erroneous; in light of such error, affirmance was warranted, because the question whether the vessel remained "in navigation" while in drydock should have been submitted to the jury, and the decision on such question might affect the outcome of the ultimate inquiry whether the engineer was a seaman under the Jones Act. On remand, the District Court was to charge the jury in a manner consistent with holding one above.