Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Chandris v Latsis case brief

Chandris v Latsis case brief summary
Supreme Court of the US, 1995, Justice O’Connor

Facts
  • In May 1989 Antonios Latsis was employed by Chandris as a salaried superintendent engineer.
  • Latsis was responsible for maintaining and updating the electronic and communications equipment on Chandris fleet of vessels.
  • His duties included overseeing the vessels’ engineering departments which required him to take a number of voyages and planning and directing ship maintenance from the shore.
  • Latsis claimed that he spent 72% of his time at sea, his immediate superior testified that he spent 10%.
  • On May 14, 1999 Latsis sailed for Bermuda aboard the Galileo to plan for an upcoming renovation of the ship.
  • Latsis developed a problem with his right eye on the day of departure.
  • He saw the ship’s doctor, while at the dry dock.
  • The doctor diagnosed a suspected detached retina but failed to follow standard medical procedure which would have been to direct Latsis to see an ophthalmologist on an emergency basis.
  • Latsis lost 75% of his vision in his right eye.
  • Latsis sued for negligence of the ship’s doctor.

Rationale
  • A maritime worker who spends only a small fraction of his working time on board of a vessel is fundamentally landbased and therefore not a member of the vessel’s crew, regardless of what his duties is.
  • The fifth circuit standard (just a guideline):
    • It has identified an appropriate rule of thumb for the ordinary case, a worker who spends less than about 30% of his time in the service of a vessel in navigation shouldn’t qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act. This is a guideline.
  • The question whether the Galileo remained “in navigation” while in drydock should have been submitted to the jury, and because the decision in that issue might affect the outcome of the ultimate seaman status inquiry, we remand for a new trial.

Dissent
Justice Stevens with whom Justice Thomas and Justice Breyer join, concurring in the judgment:
  • An employee of the ship who is injured at sea in the course of his employment is always a “seaman”.
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