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Vessel owner can be liable for failure to maintain slip-resistant wheelhouse floors

This case concerns a fall aboard the M/V EMILY ALEXIS that occurred while the Master was responding to an engine room fire. The vessel's Master slipped in the vessel's wheelhouse when he turned around to retrieve a fire extinguisher. He was injured injured in his left hip, buttocks, ribs and lower back.

A Jones Act personal injury lawsuit was filed in New Orleans federal court against the vessel's owner, C&J Marine Services, Inc. In his complaint, the Master asked for general damages, loss of past earnings, loss of future earning capacity, past and future medical expenses, exemplary damages, attorneys' fees, and punitive damages.

To establish C&J's fault under the Jones Act, the Master's legal team and maritime safety expert maintained that the vessel owner failed to provide a reasonably safe place to work by failing to provide slip resistant floors in the wheelhouse.

C&J filed a motion for summary judgment asking the court to reject this argument. C&J argued it did not breach any duty to plaintiff and that the fire was not the cause of plaintiff's injuries. C&J argued that there was no evidence suggesting C&J breached its Jones Act duty to the Master with the respect to the wheelhouse floor. To rebut C&J's argument, the Master pointed to his safety expert's opinion which states that C&J should have utilized non-skid or slip-resistant flooring. A copy of the expert report is provided below:

Stoller Report
Download PDF • 3.76MB


The Jones Act allows seamen to file suit against their employers when they get injured at work. A seaman is entitled to recovery under the Jones Act if his employer's negligence is the cause, in whole, or in part, of his injury. The standard of causation in Jones Act cases is "not demanding" and only requires "that employer negligence played any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury."

Here, the Master's legal team produced evidence by way of expert report that there is a requirement for working surfaces to be outfitted with slip-resistant flooring, and the defendants' failure to use the non-skid flooring caused the Master's fall. The Court found this was sufficient evidence to reject C&J's attempt to dismiss the Master's personal injury lawsuit. Further, the Court agreed that while the fire may not have been a cause-in-fact of the Master's incident, evidence of the fire was relevant to provide context, and to show the fall occurred during a "chaotic" and "rushed scene."

In sum, the vessel owner's motion was denied and the Master was allowed to proceed to trial with his personal injury lawsuit.

A copy of the decision is provided below:

Burgess v. C_J Marine Servs._ Inc._ 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69768
Download PDF • 250KB

Please feel free to reach out at or (504) 553-1435 if you have any questions or would like to discuss.


Adam Davis Law Firm


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