Baseball analogies seem appropriate this time of year and so here goes (in the voice of the Yankees announcer John Sterling): “And the 11th Circuit goes boom! It is high, it is far and it looks like the Supremes might be looking at this one.”
That's right, last week’s 11th Circuit decision reversing the jury’s decision in a Jones Act lawsuit tee's up an issue that’s sort of academic but dripping with real world implications.
The issue is whether a seaman can recover money damages, under the Jones Act, for an injury caused by excessive stress and an erratic sleep schedule. The 11th Circuit majority (it was not a unanimous decision) shook their heads and said no. You need an injury caused by a physical peril to recover under the Jones Act, it said, handing the corporation an appellate win. Too bad because I’m sure this won’t do much to slow the corporate roll.
An elegantly written dissent neatly explains my problem with this outcome. The plaintiff pleaded and proved to a jury’s satisfaction that the corporation's working environment, which included average workdays of 16 hours, caused physical damage to his heart. The jury, the dissenting opinion explains, was asked to identify whether the injury was “emotional” or “physical” and decided it was a physical. Deference, the dissent says, should’ve been given to the jury. Indeed, indeed.
The Supreme Court might just gaff and drag this decision aboard for a good unfolding because the 11th Circuit’s reasoning conflicts with other appellate courts. On the other hand, after looking at it, they might pass — figuring it’s a foul ball with more pitches to come.
You can read a copy of the decision on our website at www.saltwaterlaw.com
Underway and making way.