An interesting case has been decided as to whether a pleasure yacht captain properly alleged Jones Act seaman status entitling him to seek damages under the federal personal injury statute as well as the maritime law maintenance and cure obligation. The captain started working aboard the private pleasure yacht in 2010 to perform maintenance and repair jobs on the yacht. He was eventually hired to take over the position of the yacht’s captain on a part-time basis in additions to his general maintenance and repair duties. In late 2014, the part-time captain position became full-time. Under the terms of the employment agreement, he was paid a salary of $3,500 per month and lived aboard the yacht. As the yacht’s master, he operated the vessel during moves to Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina for boat shows and prepared the yacht for visits by the owners. On April 25, 2016, while preparing to move the yacht from Hilton Head Island to Charleston, when he fell approximately 7 feet onto the concrete dock and landed on his elbows. Injuries sustained from the fall required multiple surgeries. He was terminated two months later.
The captain filed a lawsuit against his employer for failure to pay maintenance and cure and for damages arising out of the negligent failure to provide medical treatment under the Jones Act. The employer moved to dismiss the complaint arguing that the complaint failed to plead facts in support of his status as a seaman under the Jones Act.