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Florida Maritime Accident Lawyer

Dormitory Barge is Vessel: 5th Circuit Reverses Itself

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Editor: Gabrielle D'Alemberte
Profession: Florida Maritime Attorney

January 27, 2006

By Rod Sullivan

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Category: Marine Construction & Dredging

The queston of what is a vessel is always important in marine construction cases since it is one of the criteria which separates "seamen", who are entitled to sue under the Jones Act, from "harbor workers" who are entitled to compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act.

Yesterday the 5th Circuit, which had previously decided that a dormitory barge was not a "vessel" for Jones Act purposes, reversed itself.

The case is Homes v. Atlantic Soundings and Weeks Marine, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 1175 (5th Cir. 2006).

Addie Holmes was a b.r. steward who was struck on the head with a television set while cleaning the dormitory barge. As is typical, the shipowner provided her with no medical care other than first aid, and she had to hire a lawyer. Her employer removed the case to federal court where a district judge decided that the dormitory barge was not a vessel and that therefore Ms. Holmes was not a seaman.

In reconsidering the issue, the 5th circuit decided that the Supreme Court's ruling in Dutra trumped its earlier decision that such barges were not "vessels" within the meaning of the Jones Act.

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