Sunday, May 18, 2014

Manuel v. P.A.W. Drilling & Well Service, Inc. case brief summary

Manuel v. P.A.W. Drilling & Well Service, Inc. (5th Cir. 1998)
Facts: Manuel worked as a floorhand on a workover rig for D. The rig had been bolted to a barge for more than 2 years. The barge was equipped w/ spuds used to secure it to water bottom once it reached the worksite. Manuel was injured when he tried to pick up a joint of tubing that had fallen from the barge. Manuel sued under the Jones Act and the general maritime law to recover for his injuries. TC granted SJ to D.
-Traditionally, a vessel refers to structures designed or utilized for transportation of passengers, cargo or equipment from place to place across navigable waters
-First must look to see if what the purpose for the craft’s construction was and the business in which it engaged
        a) Cases have been pointing to find structures (rigs, barges, etc) that aren’t traditional ships to be vessels. Key is transportation function and how incidental it is to warrant whether or not structure is a vessel
        b) Common theme: If a primary purpose of the craft is to transport passengers, cargo, or equipment from place to place across navigable waters, then that structure is a vessel (in these special purpose cases, transportation function of the structure needs to be more than merely incidental to its purpose
-Meanwhile, certain structures that float upon the water aren’t vessels. For instance dry docks and similar structures (Cook case where barge attached to a dock used to fabricate concrete barges is not a vessel, just an extension of land). 
-3 common factors to the non-vessel/work platform cases: (1) structures involved were constructed and used primarily as work platforms; (2) they were moored or otherwise secured at the time of the accident; and (3) although capable of movement and sometimes moved across navigable waters, transportation function was incidental to serving as a platform (test from Bernard v. Binnings, where a work punt that paddled around to guide in pilings not a vessel)
-If owner constructs or assembles a craft for the purpose of transporting passengers, cargo, or equipment across navigable waters and the craft is engaged in that service, that structure is a vessel. Other factors may include intention of the owner to move the structure on a regular basis, the length of time that the structure has remained stationary, and equipment like lifeboats bilge pumps, etc. The second big consideration is the business the craft is engaged in (transport vs. work platform).
-Find that rig here is a vessel because it was assembled to transport workover rig and its equipment from place to place across navigable waters to service wells located in navigable waters. Transportation function was not merely incidental.

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