Plaintiff Was Not a Seaman Because Oil Field Spar Was Not a Vessel

Plaintiff lodged a Jones Act suit against his employer, Anadarko Petroleum.   He was injured on the RED HAWK spar, which is a “floating gas-production platform moored in ocean water 5,000 feet deep approximately 210 miles from Sabine Pass, Texas.”  It is secure to the ocean floor by six anchor moorings.  The mooring lines are permanently taut top prevent lateral movement.  The employer intended that the RED HAWK spar would stay in place for the life of the oil field, but it has actually stayed in place longer.  Considering the nature of the RED HAWK spar, the employer moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff was not a seaman.  The district court agreed and the Fifth Circuit affirmed.

In its affirmance, the Fifth Circuit considered whether Plaintiff could in any way establish seaman status.  He could not.  A seaman must have “a connection to a vessel in navigation (or an identifiable group of such vessels) that is substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature.”  Because the RED HAWK spar was not a vessel, Plaintiff was not a seaman.  Indeed, “[d]isconnecting the RED HAWK from the sea floor would make disconnecting a casino boat from the shore look as easy as unplugging a toaster.”

Mendez v. Andarki Petroleum Co., No. 11-20047 (5th Cir. 03/26/2012) (per curiam).

Jon Robinson
As a Member at Mouledoux, Bland, Legrand & Brackett, Jon Robinson focuses his practice on the representation of employers and carriers in matters arising under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, the Defense Base Act, and the War Hazards Compensation Act. He can be contacted at (504) 595-3000 or by e-mail at jrobinson@mblb.com.
Jon Robinson