Seaman files Jones Act suit against U.S. United Barge Line

By Steve Gonzalez | Apr 9, 2008

A seaman for U.S. United Barge Line filed a Jones Act complaint against his employer alleging unsafe work conditions.

Represented by David Cates and Robert Rowland of the Goldenberg firm in Edwardsville, Nathan Kohlhaas claims he injured his right shoulder while working on the M/V Elenore Gordon on April 15, 2005.

According to the suit filed March 31 in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, the vessel was in navigation on the Mississippi River at the time of Kohlhaas' injury.

Kohlhaas claims United Barge 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.

United Barge was formerly known as Teco Barge Lines.

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.

Kohlhaas claims his shoulder injury 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.

He is seeking damages in excess of $150,000.

In addition, Kohlhaas 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 Michael Reagan.

08 CV 239

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