Georges Legrand and Trevor Cutaiar Win Appeal – Welding Foreman Not a Seaman

Congratulations to Members Georges Legrand and Trevor Cutaiar! Georges and Trevor recently defended a lawsuit in which a welding foreman at a shipyard on the Mississippi River brought claims against his employer under the Jones Act for negligence and under the general maritime law for unseaworthiness, maintenance and cure and punitive damages for the alleged failure to pay maintenance and cure.

Alternatively, he asserted a claim against his employer pursuant to Section 905(b) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Prior to filing his lawsuit, the employee had received extensive compensation and indemnity benefits pursuant to the LHWCA. After receiving those benefits for approximately two years and getting close to reaching maximum medical improvement from his injuries, he brought the Jones Act lawsuit.

The Section 905(b) claim was dismissed by summary judgment before trial. The remaining claims were tried before a district judge in Iberville Parish, Louisiana in March of 2021. Following trial, the judge entered a judgment against the shipyard and its insurer for approximately $ 1.9 million, inclusive of interests and costs. The award included damages for pain and suffering, past and future loss of wages, and past and future maintenance and cure. It also included an award for compensatory damages for the alleged failure to pay maintenance and cure, despite the fact that the district court found that the employer was not arbitrary and capricious in refusing to make such payments.

The matter was appealed. The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal recently overturned the judgment in all respects and held that the injured employee’s sole recourse was for benefits under the LHWCA. Feel free to contact Georges or Trevor if you would like further information regarding this decision.

Clarence Jackson v. Plaquemine Point Shipyard, LLC and Starr Indemnity & Liability Company