Crowder set to preside over Dec. 8 Jones Act trial

Steve Gonzalez Dec. 4, 2008, 7:10am

Judge Crowder

Roy Dripps

A jury trial in a 2007 Jones Act case against Marquette Transportation and Bluegrass Marine will begin at 9 a.m. on Dec. 8 in Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder's courtroom.

The plaintiff, Vivian Fox, a cook on the M/V Captain Bear Ive, alleges she was fired after being diagnosed with cancer.

Cox claims she became ill and requested medical attention while working on April 25, 2007.

Cox claims Marquette put her off the vessel in Wood River and she sought and received treatment at Alton Memorial Hospital.

She claims Marquette had the legal duty under the Jones Act to provide members of the crew with prompt cure and maintenance for their injuries and illnesses.

Cox claims cure and maintenance was initially provided, but once she underwent surgery for colon cancer, Marquette breached its legal duties and refused to pay her cure and maintenance and fired her and cutting her off from any health insurance benefits.

Roy Dripps of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River will represent Cox at trial.

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.

At trial, Cox is expected to testify she sustained consequential damages over, above and beyond what she would have sustained from the natural course of her illness had she received prompt and appropriate cure and maintenance including an increased loss of chance of survival, increased mental anguish and physical pain, delayed recovery and increased cost of medical expenses.

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.

Marquette and Bluegrass will argue they acted reasonably at all times and that Cox's cancer was not related to her work upon their vessel.

They will present evidence that Cox was provided maintenance and cure in accordance with General Maritime Law for a gastrointestinal infection that she and other members of the crew sustained as a result of contamination of the potable water tank.

According to Marquette and Bluegrass, they immediately responded and fulfilled their maintenance and cure obligations related to Cox's gastrointestinal infection and immediately responded and correctly applied their obligations under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Marquette and Bluegrass is also expected to argue Cox intentionally misrepresented or concealed medical facts in her pre-employment application and paperwork.

Ronald Fox of Fox Galvin in St. Louis will represent Marquette and Bluegrass during the trial. Fox will be assisted by John Scialdone and Ryan Hahn of Balch & Bingham in Gulfport Miss.

Cox is expected to ask the jury to award her damages in excess of $100,000.

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