In Louisiana, certain workers who work on marine vessels are protected under the Jones Act, a federal law under which workers may sue their employers. There have been several opinions issued by the federal courts in Louisiana about whether or not punitive damages might be available to seamen who sue third parties that are not their employers, but more recent changes may bring the debate to an end.
In one case, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled that punitive damages were not available in Jones Act lawsuits against third-party non-employers. In another case, the same court ruled that punitive damages were available against third-party non-employers under the General Maritime Act. A recent case in Feb. 2017 indicates that the split may be ended, however.
In Wade v. Clemco Industries Corp., the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled that punitive damages are not available against third-party non-employers. The court relied on an en banc decision out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit as binding precedent.
Workers who have suffered serious injuries in a boat accident that resulted from the negligence of their employers or third parties might want to meet with personal injury lawyers who accept maritime cases. Lawyers may analyze what happened in order to assess the winnability of their clients' claims. If they agree to accept the cases, the attorneys may work to recover the maximum possible amounts to make their clients whole again. In many cases, lawyers may be able to settle the cases short of litigating them through court.