The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the Jones Act after Wesley Livsey Jones, the senator who sponsored it, is a federal law with numerous provisions that are designed to protect the American shipping industry in various ways. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Maritime Commission.
It requires that all goods shipped between U.S. ports be done so in watercraft built and operated by American citizens.
This protects the U.S. shipping industry from economic threats. In addition to protecting the shipping industry at large, the Jones Act protects individual sailors by providing them with a program that is similar to workers’ compensation. Sailors who spend at least 30% of their time on the job in navigable waters can have work-related injuries covered under the Jones Act.
Recently, a former employee of maritime transport company Hunter Marine was found taking advantage of Jones Act protections for injuries he sustained onshore.
Forrest W. Phillips claimed he injured his shoulder while handling a wire cable on one of Hunter Marine’s vessels. The company paid for his surgeries, time off, and other related expenses. Later, another employee suggested that Phillips’ injury claim was not what it looked like. The company launched an investigation and discovered that Phillips was already injured when he boarded the ship that day, and told his colleagues that he was going to make an attempt to get the company to pay for his medical costs be pretending to be injured on the job.
When the company found out it was being exploited, it ceased payments to Phillips and terminated his employment. Phillips then filed a lawsuit against the company, who filed a counterclaim.
Last month, a federal magistrate and jury sided with the company and ordered Phillips pay back the funds he took from the company with an additional $5,000 in punitive damages.
While Phillips’ actions may have been irresponsible, the Jones Act continues to protect injured sailors from the opposite situation where a negligent shipping company’s policies cause injury. If you are a seaman who suffered an injury on the water and your employer is not complying with the Jones Act, contact the maritime lawyers of Ritter & Associates at 619-296-0123 to learn more about how a personal injury attorney can help you.