Shipyard supervisor is a seaman

by Matthew H. Ammerman on October 24th, 2014

On March 10, 2014, the Fifth Circuit agreed that Larry Naquin, a vessel repair supervisor at Elevating Boat, Inc.’s (EBI) shipyard facility in Houma, Louisiana, was a seaman.

Naquin was injured while operating a crane in the shipyard. Naquin's primary responsibility as a vessel repair supervisor was the maintenance and repair of EBI’s fleet of lift-boat vessels. Ordinarily, Naquin worked aboard the lift-boats while they were moored, jacked up, or docked in EBI's shipyard canal. Naquin spent approximately 70 percent of his total time working aboard those vessels, including inspecting, cleaning, painting, replacing parts, performing engine repairs, going on test runs, securing equipment, and operating the vessel’s marine cranes and jack-up legs.  Two to three times per week, Naquin would do his work while the vessel was being moved to another position in the canal. Occasionally, EBI dispatched Naquin to repair a vessel or fill in as a vessel crane operator while the vessel was operating in open water. Naquin spent the remaining 30 percent of his time working in the shipyard's fabrication shop or operating the shipyard's LC-400 land-based crane.

The Supreme Court's Chandris case holds that to be a seaman the worker must (1) contribute to the mission of a vessel; and, (2) have a substantial connection to a vessel in navigation (or identifiable fleet) in terms of duration and nature. The Fifth Circuit rejected EBI’s argument that the nature of Naquin’s brown-water work did not expose him to the perils of the sea. Naquin's primary job duties were doing the ship’s work on vessels docked or at anchor in navigable water. The Fifth Circuit held that the evidence supports the jury’s finding that Naquin is a seaman.

Naquin v. Elevating Boats, L.L.C., 744 F.3d 927, 930-931 (5th Cir. 2014).



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