COVID-19 Protections Under the Jones Act

August 6, 2020

The repercussions of Covid-19 in the workplace will be playing out on the legal landscape in the coming weeks and months as more and more people return to work with varying degrees of cautions and protections. This will be as true for maritime workers and their families as the fishing vessels continue to head out and return to their ports.In fact, the first Covid-19 fisherman death case was recently filed in the Eastern District of Louisiana. In that case- Kathy Norwood v. Rodi Marine LLC, et al. – the captain had allegedly been exposed to Covid-19 on a work assignment in New Orleans and returned to the ship. Despite remaining in his cabin he began exhibiting symptoms and, after waiting several days to seek medical attention, was diagnosed with COVID-19. Subsequently, a deckhand also fell ill and died of the virus upon returning home from the vessel.

This is clearly a failure of the vessel owner to provide a reasonably safe workplace under the Jones Act. The deceased’s widow is alleging wrongful death under the Jones Act, as well as unseaworthiness under General Maritime Law. It will be interesting to track the progress and outcome of the case.

FWY is experienced in interpreting the Jones Act and its applications. If you, a loved one, or anyone you know have been diagnosed with Covid-19 after working on a fishing vessel please do not hesitate to contact us.