There are laws regulating employment on board ships, also, and one of them is the Jones Act. This provision of the Merchant Marine Act requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried in U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents.
For our purposes, it also allows injured sailors to make claims and collect from their employers for the negligence of the ship owner, the captain, or fellow members of the crew.
So when Keith Beech died after his co-worker, Michael Cosenza, accidentally shot him aboard a Hercules Drilling Company-owned vessel, Beech’s widow sued his employer, Hercules Drilling Co. LLC, over the events that led to his death.
The widow tried to hold Hercules Drilling vicariously liable for Cosenza’s killing of husband.
A federal district court determined that Cosenza was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident, and therefore, Hercules was liable for Beech’s wrongful death. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, however, reversed, holding that Cosenza was not acting in the course of his employment when he accidentally shot Beech, and therefore, the district court’s judgment in favor of Mrs. Beech must be reversed.
You can read the case here.
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