JAMES W. PERKINS, Plaintiff-Appellant, JUDITH LYNN PERKINS,Plaintiff, v. AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER FUEL SUPPLY, INC.; INDIANA MICHIGAN POWERCOMPANY, INC., RIVER TRANSPORTATION DIVISION, Defendants-Appellees.
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 5653; 2001 FED App. 0101P (6th Cir.)
November 29, 2000, Argued
April 6, 2001, Decided
PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Plaintiff, seamen, appealed from an order of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio entering judgment in favor of defendants, ship owners, after a bench trial on his claims for negligence under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C.S. ß 688, and unseaworthiness under general maritime law.
OVERVIEW: Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against Defendants alleging that Defendants were liable for negligence under the Jones Act and for the unseaworthiness of Defendants’ vessels under general admiralty law, because the ratchet Plaintiff used was defective and was the cause of his injuries, and that Defendants failed to take adequate safety precautions and provide training for Plaintiff. The district court found that Defendants were not negligent and that the vessels were seaworthy. Plaintiff appealed. The court of appeals reversed-in-part and held that the district court erred in determining that Defendants were not negligent in failing to provide adequate safety measures. The facts indicated that Defendants knew of the risk that the ratchet could fail and that, as result, a seaman could fall from the tow knee and injure himself. Nevertheless, Defendants failed to adequately guard against these risks. Moreover, the appellate court added given that Defendants had installed safety ropes in other areas of their vessel indicated that it would not have been excessively burdensome in light of these risks for Defendants to install safety ropes.
OUTCOME:The district court’s order was affirmed denying recovery under the Jones Act and the unseaworthiness doctrine based on inadequate training, and denying recovery based on the defective ratchet. The order was reversed-in-part and remanded denying recovery under the Jones Act and the unseaworthiness doctrine based on the adequacy of safety measures available on defendants’ vessel.