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News: US Jones Act and LHWCA claims in view of the COVID-19 pandemic

24 March 2020

In the United States a shipowner may face claims from seaman under the Jones Act or harbor workers under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).

Under the Jones Act, a seaman may claim for maintenance and cure benefits or bring actions against a shipowner for negligence or unseaworthiness. In order to meet the preliminary burden for maintenance and cure benefits, a seaman must prove the illness manifested itself during service of the ship. Given the widespread lack of testing equipment and the relatively mild symptoms of COVID-19 in many cases it may prove quite difficult to prove where and when a seaman contracted the virus. If a seaman meets this burden then a shipowner will be liable for subsequent repatriation, quarantine, and treatment until the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement.

Under the LWCHA, a harbor worker must prove his illness is causally related to his employment. The statute was drafted to favor workers and it creates a presumption that the illness arose out of and in the course of his employment. Given the shortage of testing equipment and the nature of the virus described above, it may prove difficult for shipowners to overcome this presumption.

Shipowners may also face claims by seaman for negligence and unseaworthiness of the ship under the Jones Act or negligence under section 905(b) of the LHWCA by harbor workers. Phelps Dunbar LLP has published an article which explores the potential liability exposure that COVID-19 may present to shipowners.

The full text of the article on COVID-19’s affects on the US Jones Act and LHWCA claims is available in the attachment on the right. The club would like to thank, Mr Taylor Bologna and Mr Thomas Kent Morrison, for this article.​