ILNews

Riverboat not covered by Jones Act

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A casino riverboat that is indefinitely moored to the shore isn't considered a vessel in navigation under the federal Jones Act, so a riverboat worker can't bring a claim for compensation of injuries under the act, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

In RDI/Caesar's Riverboat Casino, Inc and M/V Glory of Rome v. Tina Conder, No. 31A04-0802-CV-40, Caesar's Riverboat Casino appealed the trial court order granting Tina Conder's motion for partial summary judgment under the Jones Act and denying Caesar's motion to dismiss her complaint. Conder worked as a table games dealer in the casino beginning in 2003 and was repeatedly bitten by fleas during her employment there. She claims the large doses of steroids used to treat the bites caused her to have a heart attack. She filed a complaint against Caesar's seeking compensation for her injuries based on the Jones Act, or as a Sieracki seaman.

The Court of Appeals looked to other jurisdictions in determining that indefinitely moored riverboats aren't covered under the Jones Act. The riverboats fail the first part of the U.S. Supreme Court's two-prong test for determining whether an employee is a Jones Act seaman because the riverboats aren't "vessels in navigation."

The Caesar's riverboat has been moored and stationary since August 2002 and the casino's director of marine operations testified the riverboat isn't transporting passengers, cargo, or equipment on the river anymore and is now a platform to conduct gaming activities.

The judges don't agree with Conder's argument that because the Coast Guard continues to inspect the riverboat and that Caesar's hasn't given up its Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection, the riverboat is a vessel of navigation under the Jones Act. Many other courts have considered indefinitely moored casinos that were registered with and inspected by the Coast Guard and ruled they aren't vessels in navigation, wrote Chief Judge John Baker.

The ship owner's intent with the ship, which in this case is to have the ship indefinitely moored, is part and parcel of the nature of the ship, the judge continued. The intent to never sail again leads to a conclusion that the Jones Act doesn't apply.

The appellate court reversed the trial court in part and remanded with instructions to dismiss Conder's Jones Act claim with prejudice and for further proceedings on her Sieracki seaman claim.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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