Harbor Tug & Barge v Papai case brief summary
Supreme Court of US, 1997, Justice Kennedy
- John Papai was painting the housing structure of the tug Point Barrow when a ladder he was on moved, causing him to fall and injure his knee.
- The employment was supposed to begin and end the same day and Papai was not going to sail with the vessel after he finished painting.
- Papai worked in several vessels for over 21/2 years for short jobs.
- He got hired through the hiring hall.
- Jones Act coverage is confined to seamen, those workers who face regular exposure to the perils of the sea.
- The Substantial Connection Test: an important part of the test for determining who is a seaman is whether the injured worker seeking coverage has a substantial connection to a vessel or a fleet of vessels, and the latter concept requires a requisite degree of common ownership or control.
- This test is important in distinguishing between sea-an land-based employment, since land-based employment is inconsistent with the Jones Act.
- The only connection among the vessels Papai worked aboard is that each hired some of its employees form the same union hiring hall where it hired him.
- That is not sufficient to establish seaman status under the group of vessels concept.
- Summary judgment for Harbor Tug is affirmed.
Dissenting:The court of appeals correctly concluded that Papai’s status as a seaman should be tested by the character of his work for the group of vessel owners that used the same union agent to make selections from the same pool of employees.
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