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Employer Liable Under Jones Act for Worker Shot Aboard Drilling Rig

March 30, 2011
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Under the Jones Act, an employer is vicariously liable for the death of an employee killed aboard a drilling vessel when a co-worker’s gun discharged accidentally, a federal judge has ruled.

Even though the employer “clearly delineated” its prohibition against weapons in several forms, including in an employee handbook and in an agreement signed by the owner of the gun, the employer still must pay the deceased worker’s family nearly $1.2 million, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled March 24 in Amanda Beech v. Hercules Drilling Co.

The shooting occurred in December 2009 when crane operator Keith Beech was off-duty and resting on a couch watching television aboard the vessel, according to court records.

While Hercules had argued that Beech was not acting within the course and scope of his employment when he was shot and killed, Judge Carl Barbier called the employer’s argument “unpersuasive.”

The judge ruled that the “course and scope” is a broad employment standard under the Jones Act, which provides a cause of action for negligence involving seamen.

It also found that the gun owner was on duty and “was acting in the course and scope of his employment for purposes of attaching vicarious liability to Hercules under the Jones Act,” according to the ruling. 

Filed by Roberto Ceniceros of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

 

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