Jones Act suit filed by Illinois River sailor

Steve Gonzalez Feb. 14, 2008, 12:30am

A man injured while working on a barge on the Illinois River filed a Jones Act complaint against Osage Marine Services in U.S. District Court Feb. 11, alleging his employer failed to provide him a safe place to work.

Tracey Fansheir claims he was employed as a deckhand on the M/V Miss Mary Ann on Jan. 19, 2007, when he injured his back during the performance of his duties.

He claims Osage breached its statutory duties imposed by the Jones Act by failing to provide him with safe tools and equipment, sufficient and competent assistance and competent supervision and training.

The Jones Act is a federal statute that, among other things, allows injured sailors to obtain damages from their employers due to negligence caused by the ship owner, captain or fellow members of the crew.

Although the Jones Act protects seamen, it is not the same as workers' compensation. It does not require payment regardless of fault. In order for a worker to recover under the Jones Act, a worker must prove some negligence or fault on the part of the vessel's owners, operators, officers, or fellow employees or by reason of any defect in the vessel, its gear, tackle or equipment.

The Jones Act does not allow claims for loss of consortium or companionship.

Fansheir claims his back injuries have caused him to lose wages, caused and will continue to cause pain and suffering, caused a disability and obligated him to pay large sums of money in medical expenses.

Represented by Matthew Chapman of Granite City, Fansheir is seeking damages in excess of $100,000, plus costs of the suit.

In addition, he claims he has not yet reached a point of maximum cure and is seeking at least $40 per day for maintenance.

Under the Jones Act, injured workers are entitled to maintenance and cure regardless of who was at fault.

Cure obligates the owner to pay for all reasonable medical care related to all medical conditions which manifest while one is working on a vessel until recovery from work-related injuries.

Maintenance requires employers to pay workers' land living costs equal to the manner of living offshore on the vessel while under medical care. It is generally between $15 and $40 dollars per day.

The case has been assigned to District Judge J. Phil Gilbert in Benton.

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