A housekeeper aboard a river boat casino and hotel has been ruled to be a Jones Act seaman by the Iowa Court of Appeals. The housekeeper fell on ice while taking trash out of the casino’s trash compacter. She sought workers compensation benefits under Iowa’s Workers Compensation Act. The Court held that because the floating river boat casino was capable of navigation, the housekeeper’s claim fell under Federal Maritime Law.
Relying upon the Supreme Court of the United States decision in Stewart v. Dutra Construction 543 U.S. 481 (2005), the Iowa Court found that the river boat casino “was capable of being used as a means of transportation upon water” and noted that the vessel need not be used primarily for that purpose. Although it was admitted that the river boat casino did not ply the waters of the Missouri River, there was no evidence that the river boat casino was not capable of being used as a vessel in navigation, and therefore had not lost its character as a vessel in navigation because it was not permanently moored. The river boat casino had a captain and mate and was capable of sailing within 90 minutes if it so chose. The fact that the vessel and the housekeeper did not regularly sail was not determinative of whether or not the floating casino was a “vessel in navigation.”
In most instances a crewman will receive greater benefits under the Jones Act than under State workers compensation acts. Seamen are entitled to maintenance and cure benefits, and where injured through negligence or unseaworthiness may obtain compensation for lost past and future wages, lost wage earning capacity, pain and suffering, and medical expenses.
If you have been injured and have questions about your rights to compensation as a Jones Act seaman, you should contact an experienced maritime injury lawyer. For more information about this river boat casino case, it is published at 2009 WL 2960406.