A federal judge in the Southern District of Texas recently ruled that the oil and gas spar platform on which plaintiff Jerry Riley was injured was not a vessel. Riley alleged injury to his spine while testing one of the platform’s life vessels. He brought claims against his employer and the owner of the spar under the Jones Act and general maritime law. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that Riley’s Jones Act claims were barred because the platform was not vessel. The court analyzed the characteristics of the platform, noting that it was assembled onsite, had no steering mechanism, no system of self-propulsion, and no raked bow. It was intended to be used at its location for 25 years and was moored to the seabed by eleven mooring lines. The platform was connected to two pipelines that transport natural gas and oil. It was capable of limited movement within an approximately 200-foot radius but had not moved in four years.
The court held that the platform was a permanent structure attached to the seabed and was not practically capable of transportation. It was, therefore, not a vessel and Riley was not a seaman under the Jones Act. Riley’s general maritime law claims of unseaworthiness and negligence against the platform owner were also foreclosed because the platform was not a vessel and construction work on fixed offshore platforms does not bear a significant relationship to traditional maritime activity. Finally, Riley’s claims against his employer were also barred as the LWHCA provided his exclusive remedy.
Riley v. Alexander/Ryan Marine Servs. Co., 3:12-CV-00158, 2013 WL 5774872 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 24, 2013).