Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Stewart v Dutra Construction case brief

Stewart v Dutra Construction case brief summary
Supreme Court of the US, 2005, Justice Thomas

  • The commonwealth of Massachusetts undertook to extend the Massachusetts Trunpike through a tunnel running beneath South Boston and Boston Harbor to Logan Airport.
  • The commonwealth employed respondent Dutra Construction to assist in that undertaking.
  • Dutra owned the world’s larger dredge, The Super Scoop.
  • The Super Scoop is a massive floating platform from which a clamshell bucket is suspended beneath the water.
  • The Super Scoop has some common characteristics to seagoing vessels, such as a captain, crew, navigational lights, ballast tanks and a crew dining area, but it lacks others such as limited means of self-propulsion.
  • Dutra hired Willard Stewart, a marine engineer, to maintain the mechanical systems on the Super Scoop.
  • Stewart was feeding wires through an open hatch located about 10 feet above the engine area.
  • While Stewart was perched beside the hatch, the Super Scoop used its bucket to move the scow.
  • In the process, the scow collided with the Super Scoop, causing a jolt that plunged Stewart headfirst through the hatch to the deck below.
  • He was seriously injured.
  • Stewart sued on two grounds: as a Jones Act crew member and alternatively as a waterfront worker uner LHWCA.
Whether the Super Scoop was a vessel at the time of the accident?

  • Since the Super Scoop was engaged in maritime transportation at the time of Stewart’s injury, it was a vessel within the meaning of section 3.
  • Seaman: the worker must have a relationship to a vessel in order to be a “master or member” of its crew.
    • Maritime worker under the Jones Act: in order to qualify as a “seaman” under the Jones act, a maritime worker must also prove that his duties contributed to the vessel’s function or mission and that his connection to the vessel was substantial both in nature and in duration.
  • Vessel: Jones Act didn’t define either seaman or the term vessel.
    • At the time of the LHWCA enactment, section 1 and 3 of the Revised Statutes of 1873 specified:
      • The word vessel includes every description of water-craft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water.
      • A structure’s status under section 3 depended on whether the structure was a means of maritime transportation.
      • Section 3 wouldn’t sweep within its reach an array of fixed structures not commonly thought of as capable of being used for water transport.
      • Structures may loose their character as vessels if they have been withdrawn from water for extended periods of time.
    • Prior to LHWCA and the Jones Act, courts had concluded that a dredge was a vessel.
    • A watercraft is not capable of being used for maritime transport in any meaningful sense if it has been permanently moored or otherwise rendered practically incapable of transportation or movement.
    • Section 3 requires that a watercraft be “used or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water” to qualify as a vessel, it doesn’t require that the watercraft be used primarily for that purpose.
      • The Super Scoop was used to transport equipment on water.
      • It wasn’t taken out of service, permanently anchored or otherwise rendered practically incapable or maritime transport.
      • Also, a watercraft doesn’t need to be in motion to qualify as a vessel.
  • Even though Super Scoop is a vessel, workers injured on board of it are eligible for seaman status only if they are “masters or members” of the crew.
Suggested law school study materials

Shop Amazon for the best prices on Law School Course Materials.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Evolution of Legal Marketing: From Billboards to Digital Leads

https://www.pexels.com/photo/coworkers-talking-outside-4427818/ Over the last couple of decades, the face of legal marketing has changed a l...