Fifth Circuit Reaffirms Jones Act Borrowed Servant Doctrine In Negligence Cases

April 20, 2015

It is important for seamen to understand their legal and factual relationship with the companies overseeing their work, because such relationships significantly affect who can and should be held accountable for negligence should an accident occur.  On March 31, 2015, the Fifth Circuit Court reaffirmed the nine factors that determine which non-employer parties may be sued by injured seamen for negligence that results in personal injury.  Although a seaman is not directly employed by a negligent company, an injured seaman may still be able to sue that company if he or she were a “borrowed servant.”  The nine factors that determine whether a seaman is the borrowed servant of a company, as reaffirmed by the Fifth Circuit, are:

  1. Who has control over the employee and the work they are performing, beyond mere suggestion of details or cooperation?
  2. Whose work is being performed?
  3. Was there an agreement, understanding, or meeting of the minds between the original and the borrowing employer?
  4. Did the employee acquiesce in the new work situation?
  5. Did the original employer terminate his relationship with the employee?
  6. Who furnished tools and place for performance?
  7. Was the new employment over a considerable length of time?
  8. Who had the right to discharge the employee?
  9. Who had the obligation to pay the employee?

Oftentimes, the answers to these questions are not abundantly clear without a proper investigation.  The facts and circumstances present at the worksite need to be investigated, as do the relationships between the parties involved.  In Johnson v. PPI Technology Service, an injured seaman attempted to sue a company under the borrowed servant doctrine for serious injuries sustained by the seaman after gunman boarded his rig off the coast of Nigeria.  The court determined that the “borrowed servant” nine-factor test was not sufficiently met in connection with the company the seaman had sued.  There had been many companies involved in the seaman’s work, and the seaman sought additional time to amend his lawsuit to add the correct party controlling and overseeing his work.  However, by then the three-year time limit to file suit against new parties had expired.  Thus, the injured seaman’s lawsuit was dismissed.

As the foregoing demonstrates, the facts and circumstances involving the companies present at the jobsite and overseeing the work is of critical importance, particularly when an injury occurs.

When an accident occurs on the seas, it is important to retain a lawyer that can investigate the relationships of the companies involved, so that the proper parties are held accountable.  If you or a loved one has been injured offshore, the Houston Jones Act lawyers and Houston offshore injury lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard can help. They have membership in the prestigious Maritime Law Association, and they have assisted clients in a variety of maritime and offshore injury cases involving accidents throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

Please contact us now for a free, confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights.

Get a Free Case Review by Calling Morrow & Sheppard Now.

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