Cook Lacks Seaman Status

Plaintiff, who worked as a cook on a barge, evacuated the barge because of a fire.  He injured his neck and back while jumping from the barge to a vessel.  Plaintiff sued for negligence under the Jones Act, unseaworthiness of the vessel under general maritime law, and maintenance and cure.

Defendant, Plaintiff’s employer, was a catering company that provided contract labor to perform catering services on land, fixed platforms, and vessels.  Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that Plaintiff was not a seaman under the Jones Act and that his claim for maintenance and cure should be dismissed.  The parties agreed that Plaintiff met the first element for seaman status.  He served as a cook to the vessel and contributed to the function of the barge.  The issue was whether Plaintiff met the second requirement, which is that he must have a connection to a vessel in navigation or to an identifiable fleet of vessels that was substantial in both duration and nature.

Defendant submitted evidence that none of their employees were permanently assigned to any vessel or identifiable fleet of vessels.  Further, Defendant showed that its employees were given only short term assignments on various land-based facilities, platforms and vessels.  The Court found that the position for which Plaintiff was hired was comprised of short-term assignments in various locations, including land-based facilities, platforms and vessels.  The Court therefore held that Plaintiff failed to meet his burden of establishing that he was a Jones Act seaman and granted Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

Ray v. Coastal Catering, LLC, 2012 WL 4210295 (E.D. La. 2012).