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Jones Act Based on Drowning

 Court Allows Jones Act Claim Based on Archaeologist's Drowning to Proceed:



A New York appellate court ruled that an archeologist's widow could proceed with her Jones Act claim based on her late-husband's drowning in the Hudson River.


Case: Marston v. General Electric Co., No. 517694, 10/30/2014, published.

(image via General Electric Co.)


Facts: The General Electric Co. hired the URS Corp. to perform archeological surveys

in connection with a dredging project in the Hudson River.


Jeffrey Harbison worked for URS, and the company sent him to do the survey work.


The boat on which Harbison was working lost power while he was aboard, and it was

swept over the Thompson Island Dam. Harbison was drowned in this accident.


Procedural History: Harbison's widow filed a Jones Act claim against the contractors on the dredging project.


These contractors then sued URS for common-law and contractual indemnity.


Prior to answering the cross claims, URS moved to dismiss the widow's Jones Act claim.

URS supported its motion with affidavits averring that Harbison was a "land-based archeologist" who only spent nine days on a boat in connection with the Hudson River project between 2006 and 2009.


Washington County Supreme Court Justice John Hall Jr. denied URS's motion.


Analysis: The Appellate Division's 3rd Department said the URS affidavits submitted in connection with its motion were insufficient to conclusively establish that the widow had no cause of action under the Jones Act.


"The determination of whether decedent was a seaman is fact-specific and, depending on the nature and duration of his duties on this assignment, it is possible that his status had converted to that of a seaman at the time of his fatal accident," the court said.


Disposition: Affirmed.


To read the decision, click here.

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