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Jones Act Cases - Seaman Cases, Decisions & Opinions

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Jones Act - Table of Contents

The Jones Act - Cases, Decisions and Opinions

VII. PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - B. Jurisdiction - 2. Bases of Jurisdiction


522. Sufficiency of contacts with jurisdiction

Contacts were insufficient to support personal jurisdiction in Louisiana where plaintiff deckhand alleged that defendant sold fuel in Louisiana and that he traveled to Louisiana once on boat operated by defendant. Dalton v R & W Marine, Inc. (1990, CA5 La) 897 F2d 1359.

Due to minimal contacts with United States, court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over suit for injury occurring outside United States waters brought by Honduran crew member of vessel registered in Cyprus by German corporation. Matute v Procoast Navigation, Ltd. (1991, CA3 NJ) 928 F2d 627, 18 FR Serv 3d 1510.

District Court lacked jurisdiction to hear plaintiffs claim under 46 USCS Appx section 688, because of insufficient contacts with jurisdiction despite defendant agent's role in collecting freight charges in New York and disbursing funds for expenses, defendant's listing in Manhattan telephone directory at agent's telephone number, and agent's listing in Journal of Commerce as defendant's general agent; above facts were insufficient to establish identity of interest between defendant and agent. Hazell v Booth S. S. Co. (1977, SD NY) 444 F Supp 85.

Personal jurisdiction under 46 USCS Appx section 688 is governed by due process minimum contacts test. Papaioannoiu v Hellenic Lines, Ltd. (1983, ED Pa) 569 F Supp 724.

Complaint by boat captain is dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction in action against foreign owner/operator corporations arising out of injury sustained while boat was in Panamanian waters, where contacts in forum state were sparse but captain contended that minimum contacts should be measured against United States rather than forum state under aggregate contacts theory, because measurement of minimum contacts with forum state only is emerging trend, particularly in maritime cases, and contacts were insufficient to make prima facie case that foreign corporations were amenable to service and subject to personal jurisdiction under laws and rules of forum state; federal courts are subject to same Fourteenth Amendment limitations as state courts when service is made under Rules 4(d)(3, 7), and 4(e). King v McAllister Bros., Inc. (1987, SD Ala) 659 F Supp 39.

Action is dismissed under 46 USCS Appx section 688, where Greek plaintiffs are suing mostly Greek defendants concerning aid to crew of Greek flag vessel while in Nigeria, because Greece is more convenient forum. Damigos v Flanders Compania Naviera, S.A. (1989, SD NY) 716 F Supp 104.


523. Amount in controversy

Where adequate jurisdictional amounts are averred under 46 USCS Appx section 688, there can be no question of right to maintain action, regardless of whether or not there is diversity of citizenship. Mullen v Fitz Simons & Connell Dredge & Dock Co. (1948, CA7 Ill) 172 F2d 601, cert den 337 US 959, 93 L Ed 1758, 69 S Ct 1534.

Where plaintiff in action under 46 USCS Appx section 688 for damages elects to bring action at law, he must meet jurisdictional amount requirements of former 28 USCS section 41(1) (now 28 USCS section 1332). Rowley v Sierra S. S. Co. (1942, DC Ohio) 48 F Supp 193.

Under 46 USCS Appx section 688 seaman has benefit of all United States statutes modifying or extending common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees, which includes Federal Employers' Liability Act (45 USCS section section 51 et seq.) that takes jurisdiction under 28 USCS section 1337 and allegation of jurisdictional amount required by 28 USCS section 1331 is not required; therefore, federal District Court had jurisdiction in action under 46 USCS Appx section 688 even though complaint did not allege damages in excess of $ 10,000. Brown v Sinclair Refining Co. (1964, SD NY) 227 F Supp 714.

When action is brought in admiralty under Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688), jurisdictional amount is not required; this also applies to actions brought in suit at law. Richardson v St. Charles-St. John The Baptist Bridge & Ferry Authority (1967, ED La) 274 F Supp 764, 11 FR Serv 2d 110.

46 USCS Appx section 688 is act of Congress regulating commerce, and under 28 USCS section 1337 no jurisdictional amount is necessary. Ballard v Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc. (1968, SD NY) 285 F Supp 290.


524. Diversity of citizenship

Since 46 USCS Appx section 688 provided independent basis for federal jurisdiction against nondiverse respondent, dismissal of claims in same action against respondents of diverse citizenship from seaman was erroneous. Romero v International Terminal Operating Co. (1959) 358 US 354, 3 L Ed 2d 368, 79 S Ct 468, reh den 359 US 962, 3 L Ed 2d 769, 79 S Ct 795.

Seaman may sue under 46 USCS Appx section 688 in district in which plaintiff resides and defendant has its principal office, requirement of diversity of citizenship having no application. Kuhlman v W. & A. Fletcher Co. (1927, CA3 NJ) 20 F2d 465.

Notwithstanding provision giving federal courts jurisdiction in common-law actions for maritime injuries only where parties are citizens of different states, action may be brought under 46 USCS Appx section 688 in district in which employer resides, or in which his principal office is located, though plaintiff is citizen of the same state. Johnson v Panama R. Co. (1921, DC NY) 277 F 859.

In action brought under 46 USCS Appx section 688, power of federal court to exercise jurisdiction over nonresident defendants in diversity case is governed by law of state in which federal court sits, with "federal law" applied only for determining whether state's assertion of jurisdiction violates constitutional guarantees; in cases arising under Constitution, laws, or treaties of United States, limitations placed upon courts of state do not apply to federal court sitting in that state, but if manner of service is not provided for under federal procedures, state procedures will be followed. Edwards v Gulf Mississippi Marine Corp. (1978, SD Tex) 449 F Supp 1363.


525. --Pendent, interpleaded, or joined parties

Federal District Court has no jurisdiction as between defendant and third person interpleaded as party primarily liable, both being residents of same state. Wilson v United American Lines, Inc. (1927, DC NY) 21 F2d 872.

Federal district court did not have jurisdiction over cause of action based solely upon general maritime law asserted against nondiversity defendant, by virtue of its joinder with cause of action under 46 USCS Appx section 688 properly asserted against other defendants. Maher v Newtown Creek Towing Co. (1961, SD NY) 190 F Supp 933, 1961 AMC 980.

46 USCS Appx section 688 does not lend itself to finding of congressional permission to assert state law claims against nondiverse defendants as pendent parties. Wood v Standard Products Co. (1978, ED Va) 456 F Supp 1098.


526. --Particular circumstances

In action by injured seaman under Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688), District Court in Kentucky has personal jurisdiction over Indiana corporation which owned barge upon which defendant was injured, despite fact that corporation's principal place of business was in West Virginia, where injury occurred in West Virginia waters when seaman tried to pull "barge wire" aboard barge with assistance of other seaman. Handley v Indiana & Michigan Electric Co. (1984, CA6 Ky) 732 F2d 1265.

In 46 USCS Appx section 688 action by alien seaman against alien shipowner for injuries sustained on board alien ship, diversity to give jurisdiction was lacking. Mproumeriotis v Seacrest Shipping Co. (1957, DC NY) 149 F Supp 265.


527. Federal question jurisdiction

Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) conferred upon seaman right of action which he did not have under general maritime law and in adjudicating seaman's suit under section 688, District Court necessarily construes and applies section 688, it will thus be suit arising under law of United States and subject to federal question jurisdiction. Branic v Wheeling Steel Corp. (1945, CA3 Pa) 152 F2d 887, cert den 327 US 801, 90 L Ed 1026, 66 S Ct 902.

Where damages claimed in count under Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) exceeded $ 3,000 (now $ 10,000), District Court had jurisdiction under 28 USCS section 1331 since it involved application of law of United States. Jordine v Walling (1950, CA3 Pa) 185 F2d 662.

District Court had subject matter jurisdiction for negligence claim brought by injured seaman under 46 USCS Appx section 688, where court looked behind facade of operation to actual operational contacts that ship and owner had with United States. Karvelis v Constellation Lines S.A. (1986, CA2 NY) 806 F2d 49.

Personal jurisdiction under 46 USCS Appx section 688 is governed by due process minimum contacts test while subject matter jurisdiction is determined by whether defendant is employer within meaning of section 688 and if defendant is found to be employer subject to section 688, court must then make inquiry as to choice of law applicable in case at bar; if United States law would not be applied to action, then section 688 does not apply and there exists no federal question jurisdiction; where important factors of accident situs and defendant's base of operations weigh in plaintiff's favor, court may find that plaintiff has carried his burden by showing preponderance of evidence that federal jurisdiction exists. Papaioannoiu v Hellenic Lines, Ltd. (1983, ED Pa) 569 F Supp 724.

Seaman seeking recovery for injuries sustained aboard barge shall either amend his complaint to invoke jurisdiction over 46 USCS Appx section 688 claim under 28 USCS section 1331 or withdraw his jury demand, but his demand for jury trial need not be stricken, because rule in Fitzgeraldprovides right to jury trial of general maritime law claims brought in admiralty when they are joined with section 688 claims brought on law side with election of trial by jury. Kathriner v Unisea, Inc. (1990, DC Alaska) 740 F Supp 768.


528. Pendent jurisdiction

Principles of pendent jurisdiction permit admiralty matter concerning maintenance and cure to be pleaded and adjudicated with related Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) claim in action at law. Leith v Oil Transport Co. (1963, CA3 Pa) 321 F2d 591 (disagreed with Pure Oil Co. v Suarez (CA5 Fla) 346 F2d 890, affd 384 US 202, 16 L Ed 2d 474, 86 S Ct 1394).

District Court had subject matter jurisdiction over unseaworthiness claim pendent to its jurisdiction over claim under Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688). Petersen v Chesapeake & O. R. Co. (1986, CA6 Mich) 784 F2d 732.

Claims against one defendant under Jones Act and general maritime law can support pendent-party jurisdiction of state law claim against another, non-diverse defendant. Feigler v Tidex, Inc. (1987, CA5 La) 826 F2d 1435.

Claims under general maritime law and for maintenance and cure are regarded as pendent to Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) claim. Bernardo v Bethlehem Steel Co. (1959, SD NY) 169 F Supp 914, 1 FR Serv 2d 878.

District Court does not have pendent jurisdiction over action against nondiverse defendant asserted under general maritime law in action properly brought by plaintiff under Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) against other defendants. Maher v Newtown Creek Towing Co. (1961, SD NY) 190 F Supp 933.

Deckhand is granted motion under 28 USCS section 1447(c) to remand medical malpractice action against physician and hospital filed in state court, where complaint seek relief solely under state law, despite defendants' assertion that pendent-party jurisdiction could be exercised because of close relationship between medical malpractice action and deckhand's Jones Act action under 46 USCS Appx section 688 against transportation company in which transportation company impleaded hospital and physician alleging malpractice. Staffer v Staten Island Hospital (1988, ED NY) 686 F Supp 400.


529. Contacts with United States required for jurisdiction over foreign parties

Provisions of 46 USCS Appx section 688 are applicable to foreign events, foreign ships, and foreign seamen, only in accordance with usual doctrine and practices of maritime law; and that process has been duly served and necessary parties are before court of United States is not persuasive factor in determining whether application should be given to 46 USCS Appx section 688 since jurisdiction of maritime cases in all countries is so wide and nature of its subject matter so far-flung that there would be no justification for determining law of controversy simply on basis that local jurisdiction of parties is obtainable; basic criteria upon which to determine 46 USCS Appx section 688 jurisdiction as affected by nationality of seaman, vessel owner, or place of injury are: (1) place of wrongful act; (2) law of flag; (3) allegiance or domicil of injured person; (4) allegiance of defendant ship owner; (5) place of contract; (6) inaccessibility of foreign forum; and (7) law of forum. Lauritzen v Larsen (1953) 345 US 571, 97 L Ed 1254, 73 S Ct 921.

District Court acted within its sound discretion in declining to assume jurisdiction of in rem proceeding by Brazilian seaman against Swedish vessel for injury allegedly resulting from negligence and unseaworthiness, especially since Swedish consul stood ready to compensate seaman for injury. The Falco (1927, CA2 NY) 20 F2d 362, 1927 AMC 1474.

Circumstances sufficient to commit court to assume personal jurisdiction over shipowner may not be sufficient to obtain jurisdiction over Jones Act (46 USCS section 688) subject matter, thus, where shipowner maintains American agent and banking account, mere service of process does not perfect subject matter jurisdiction and Jones Act is not applicable. Dassigienis v Cosmos Carriers & Trading Corp. (1971, CA2 NY) 442 F2d 1016.

Jurisdiction is properly denied in claim under 46 USCS Appx section 688, where only significant contact was that place of contract was United States. Fitzgerald v Liberian S/T Chryssi P. Goulandris (1978, CA4 Va) 582 F2d 312.

In wrongful death action brought under Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) and general maritime law, arising out of suffocation of decedent Greek national by carbon dioxide fire-extinguishing system while combating engine room fire of vessel which was Liberian owned and Panamanian registered, United States law is properly applied where accident occurs in American port, where vessel's entire business activity after purchase by Liberian interests has been in United States, and where decedent flies to United States to join vessel immediately after being hired works his entire service on vessel in United States port prior to accident. Fisher v The Agios Nicolaos V (1980, CA5 Tex) 628 F2d 308, 68 ALR Fed 342, reh den (CA5 Tex) 636 F2d 1107 and cert den 454 US 816, 70 L Ed 2d 84, 102 S Ct 92, reh den 454 US 1129, 71 L Ed 2d 117, 102 S Ct 982.

Contacts necessary to create American base of operations must be substantial; foreign owner must be engaged in extensive business operation in this country; important consideration for determining base of operations is location at which day-to-day operating activities are conducted; mere use of American husbanding agents or brokers who contract in American ports for use of foreign ship's services is insufficient to establish American base of operations; fact that foreign vessels have called at United States ports do not support finding of American base of operations; mere existence of temporary restraining order against foreign vessel and fact that vessel is plaintiff in another lawsuit has not relevance to establishment of American base of operations. Diaz v Humboldt (1984, CA5 La) 722 F2d 1216.

Although not expressly noted in 46 USCS Appx section 688, cause of action does not require presence of navigable body of water in order to conver federal jurisdiction. Oseredzuk v Warner Co. (1972, ED Pa) 354 F Supp 453, affd without op (CA3 Pa) 485 F2d 680, cert den 415 US 977, 39 L Ed 2d 873, 94 S Ct 1563.

In Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) personal injury action, jurisdiction under Act does not exist where (1) accident occurs in Brazilian national waters, (2) accident occurs on vessel under Panamanian charter, (3) plaintiff is Brazilian citizen, (4) vessel is operated by Brazilian corporation, and (5) plaintiff executes employment contract in Brazil; fact that Brazilian employer and operator of vessel is wholly owned subsidiary of American corporation is insufficient relationship to warrant application of Jones Act jurisdiction where no facts exist to negate corporate separateness of Brazilian employer-subsidiary. Dos Santos v Reading & Bates Drilling Co. (1980, ED La) 495 F Supp 843.

Contacts with United States are insufficient to subject defendants to jurisdiction in Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) action where plaintiff is citizen and resident of Venezuela who seeks recovery for injuries allegedly suffered while employed on barge owned by Venezuelean company, which is operated on waters of internal lake in Venezuela and which can not legally be operated outside of lake. Villalobos v Loffland Bros. Co. (1981, SD NY) 507 F Supp 904.

Seaman's claim brought pursuant to Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, where seaman sustained injuries aboard vessel and vessel's ownership and operation, as well as certification, residence and base of operations of its owners are all foreign, because facts that Norwegian national plaintiff had taken up residence in Miami and signed on as First Assistant Engineer for vessel there are insufficient to supply Jones Act jurisdiction, particularly since employment contract, expressly made subject to Norwegian law, required that seaman's dispute with vessel owner be referred to Norwegian Foreign Service Station and "not be brought before foreign authorities." Tarasenko v Cardigan Shipping Co. (1987, SD NY) 671 F Supp 997.

Allegations by estate of deceased seaman are enough to avoid summary dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction, where estate asserts that defendant is owner of foreign direct owner of ship seaman was injured on and that defendant controls large shipping operation from specific location in New York City, because estate provides sufficient grounds to allow limited discovery on issues of whether defendant was beneficial owner of ship and employer of defendant. Gazis v John S. Latsis, Inc. (1990, SD NY) 729 F Supp 979.

Foreign ship owners' motions to dismiss were granted in asbestos action brought by widow of seaman, where shipowners were not doing business in state at time suit was filed as required by state long-arm statute, since personal jurisdiction under Jones Act (46 USCS Appx section 688) depends on national contacts and on defendant being subject to jurisdiction of state where court is located. Penny v United Fruit Co. (1994, ED NY) 869 F Supp 122, 1995 AMC 652.

Jones Act - TABLE OF CONTENTS


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