WISDOM, Circuit Judge.
This case propounds a riddle: When is a roughneck a seaman? The complainant offers the solution: under the Jones Act — when the roughneck is injured while working as a member of a drilling crew on a mobile drilling platform towed to a well located in navigable waters. Respondents have no patience with conundrums: an oil worker on a rig firmly planted on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico is not a seaman, not on a vessel, and not entitled to the benefits of the Jones Act. When the facts are clear, as in this case, so respondents contend, litigants should not be exposed to the risk of a capricious jury finding that an ordinary oil worker is a Jones Act seaman simply because he is employed on an offshore drilling barge in a capacity that contributes to the accomplishment of the barge's mission.
The Jones Act gives a "seaman" (not defined) the right to sue in an action at law for damages arising from the negligence of the owner or personnel of a "vessel" aboard which the seaman is employed.
Johnie Robison was an oil field worker. The complaint alleges that in August, 1956, Offshore Company hired him as a member of the crew of the vessel "Offshore No. 55". Offshore Company says that he was hired as a roustabout at $1.96 an hour. A roustabout is a general handyman in the oil fields, subject to any kind of duty involving manual labor. At the time of the accident resulting in this litigation Robison was working as a roughneck. A roughneck is a driller's helper, a laborer in a drilling crew who does the hard general work in the rigging and drilling of a well. Robison had never worked as a seaman on board a vessel, as the terms "seaman" and "vessel" are ordinarily understood. He had never carried seaman's papers, and none of the oil crew carried seaman's papers as a condition of employment.
Offshore Company is in the business of drilling and exploring for oil and gas, especially in the Gulf of Mexico. It owns and operates a drilling rig identified as "Offshore No. 55". This is a rig mounted on what Offshore calls a mobile drilling platform and what Robison calls
Retractable legs are the distinctive feature of Offshore No. 55. These are eight legs or towers, caissons, twelve feet in diameter, running through the hull, two located on each of the four corners of the barge. When the drilling barge is in position the legs are dropped down to the ocean floor, then hydraulic jacks lift the barge above the water level so that the main deck of the barge may serve as a drilling platform. When the drilling barge is in a floating position, the spuds are recessed so that the barge will have a flat bottom.
The men employed on Offshore No. 55 work ten days on and five days off. The crew remains aboard the vessel when it is moved to well locations. While the vessel is moving, roustabouts and roughnecks prepare the machinery for a new location, secure the pipe and other material on deck, chip rust, paint, wash down decks, catch lines from vessels coming alongside, operate bilge pumps, load and unload supplies.
On the night of the accident, Robison was working on the main deck of the barge. Other workmen were running casing on the drilling floor, twelve feet above the main deck. When casing was needed, it was rolled onto a catwalk, extending from the main deck to the drilling floor in a slanted position, and was pulled up to the drilling floor with the use of an air hoist line through V-doors in the side of the derrick. Robison's job was to crease the threaded ends of the drill casing and to hook the air hoist line onto the sections to be hoisted into the derrick on the drilling floor. Usually chain stoppers are placed across the catwalk to stop the pipe from sliding back down to the main deck. Usually, too, an oil line from the top of the derrick is secured to the casing after the air hoist line pulls it through the V-doors at which time the air hoist line is released and the oil line carries the casing up into the derrick itself.
At the time of the accident there was no chain stopper and the oil line was being used in another operation. One of the sections of casing was hoisted into the V-doors. A casing crew man took off the air hoist line leaving the casing unsecured. Forty feet of pipe, weighing 1620 pounds, slid, skidded, and catapulted down through the V-doors to the catwalk toward Robison. In attempting to escape, Robison caught his foot between a section of drill pipe and a beam. The casing struck the pipe, severely fracturing Robison's leg.
Robison sued the Offshore Company and its liability insurer, Fidelity and Casualty Company of New York on the theory that Robison was a seaman and a member of the crew of the vessel "Offshore No. 55"; as such, respondent owed him the duty to provide a safe and seaworthy vessel, under the Jones Act and the general maritime law. Robison alleged that the accident was caused by unsafe working conditions, unsafe lighting, defective equipment, the absence of a proper chain stopper, and the negligent management of the equipment. In addition to damages for his injury, he claimed maintenance and cure at eight dollars a day for the period of his disability. Respondents denied that Robison was a seaman and that Offshore No. 55 was a vessel: he was a member of a drilling crew who did nothing to assist in the navigation, maintenance or operation
The plaintiff filed an amended complaint seeking to join as a party defendant the Oil City Casing Crews Company and alleged that this company had at the time of the accident a casing crew on the floor of the Offshore No. 55 whose negligence contributed to the accident. Oil City Casing Crews was not actually before the court.
The case was heard before a jury as an action under the Jones Act and the general maritime law. At the conclusion of the evidence, respondents moved for a directed verdict.
There are two aspects to the question at issue: (1) What is required in law to constitute a maritime worker a seaman and a member of a crew? (2) In the circumstances of this case, is the question one for the court or for the jury?
The Jones Act was adopted in 1920. It applies in terms to "any seaman who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment". It has
In 1927, partly as a result of Haverty, Congress adopted the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, 44 Stat. 1424, 33 U.S.C.A. § 901 et seq., covering all maritime workers except masters or "members of a crew of a vessel". The Supreme Court has held that the effect of this act is to restrict the benefits of the Jones Act to "members of a crew of a vessel". Swanson v. Marra Bros., Inc., 328 U.S. 1, 66 S.Ct. 869, 90 L.Ed. 1045. In discussing the effect of the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Act, the First Circuit stated: "The process of liberal construction of the Jones Act cannot now be ignored because Congress has seen fit to pass the Longshoremen's Act. As a result of the cases, we feel constrained to hold that one who does any sort of work aboard a ship in navigation is a `seaman' within the meaning of the Jones Act." Carumbo v. Cape Cod S. S. Co., 1 Cir., 1941, 123 F.2d 991, 995. In that case the court pointed out that even a cook or an engineer "is aiding in navigation".
Gianfala v. Texas Company, 1955, 350 U.S. 879, 76 S.Ct. 141, 100 L.Ed. 775, reversing Texas Company v. Gianfala, 5 Cir., 1955, 222 F.2d 382, is the key case in the conversion of offshore oil field workers into seamen. Gianfala and other members of a drilling crew slept at a Texas Company oil field camp and did regular oil field work aboard a submersible drilling barge. The barge was resting on the bottom of a bay at the time of the accident. The drilling crew was handling casing pipe in the completion of operations of a well drilled to a depth of 11,000 feet. A lift blew out a piston rod that struck and killed Gianfala. The defendant contended that the drilling barge was not a vessel in navigation and that the decedent was an oil field employee whose duties were not primarily in aid of navigation. The trial court held that the decedent's status was a question for the jury. This Court reversed the district court in a unanimous opinion, holding that the facts were undisputed and that the applicability of the Jones Act is a question of law to be determined by the court. As a matter of law, the decedent was not aboard ship, primarily to aid in navigation; "on the contrary he was aboard ship not as a member of the ship's crew, but as a member of the drilling crew" doing work done only by oil field workers. The Supreme Court, in a short per curiam opinion, granted a writ of certiorari, reversed this Court, and remanded the case to the district court with directions to reinstate its judgment.
The Supreme Court, without discussing the law, cited four cases in Gianfala. South Chicago Coal & Dock Co. v. Bassett,
In South Chicago Coal & Dock Co. v. Bassett the decedent was employed aboard a lighter to facilitate the flow of coal from the lighter to vessels being fueled. He did not work while the lighter was enroute from the dock to the vessel and he had no duties to perform while the lighter was in motion. The Court held that there was sufficient evidence to support a finding of the commissioner that the Longshoremen's Act was the proper remedy and that the decedent was not a member of the crew under the Jones Act. Mr. Justice Hughes held that "the word `crew' does not have an absolutely unvarying legal significance" [309 U.S. 251, 60 S.Ct. 548.] The determination, therefore, whether a person is a "member of the crew", a word that has a "wide range of variation", is a question of fact to be left to the trier of the facts. The Supreme Court observed, however, that as used in the statute, "crew" seemed to mean "employees on the vessel who are naturally and primarily on board to aid in her navigation".
In Summerlin v. Massman Construction Co. the plaintiff was employed as a fireman on a floating derrick anchored in the York River. The derrick had no motive power of its own, no sleeping quarters, and was used in connection with pouring concrete into certain forms incident to building a bridge across the river. On an agreed statement of facts, the Fourth Circuit held that Summerlin was a Jones Act seaman and the derrick was a vessel engaged in navigation.
In Wilkes v. Mississippi River Sand & Gravel Co. certain laborers were employed in dredging operations. Their duty was to level off gravel pumped up from the river bottom and dumped on the barges where they were working. This was their only duty, a duty somewhat less, one would think, than the duties of those "naturally and primarily on board in aid of navigation". The district court found that the claimants were simply common laborers employed to remove gravel. The Sixth Circuit reversed the lower court [202 F.2d 387], holding, on the authority of Bassett, that whether a claimant is a member of a crew is "primarily a question of fact", since "the word `crew' does not have an absolutely unvarying legal significance". The Court set up three requirements: "(1) that the vessel be in navigation; (2) that there be a more or less permanent connection with the vessel; and (3) that the worker be aboard primarily to aid in navigation". The Court paused only over the third requirement. This it construed as not confined to those who "hand, reef and steer" but applicable "to all whose duties contribute to the operation and welfare of the vessel". The decedents met the required standard. The Court was influenced by the fact that the decedents had a permanent connection with the barge and shared the same hazards as those shared by all aboard.
There are common denominators in Gianfala, Bassett, Summerlin, Wilkes, and Gahagan decisions. (1) The claimants are not ordinarily thought of as "seamen" aboard "primarily in aid of navigation", although they may serve the vessel in the sense that the work they perform fits in with the function the vessel serves. Gianfala was a member of a drilling crew on a submersible barge, Summerlin a fireman on a derrick, Wilkes a common laborer on a dredge, Gahagan a deckhand on a dredge. They had absolutely nothing to do with navigation, as such, nothing to do with the operations or welfare of a vessel in the sense that a vessel is a means of transport by water, and were not members of a ship's company in the sense that ship's cook or carpenter are necessary or appropriate members of a ship's complement. But in the light of the function or mission of the special structure to which they were attached, they served in a capacity that contributed to the accomplishment of its mission in the same way that a surgeon serves as a member of the crew of a floating hospital. The Bassett decision is the only one of the four cited in which there was judicial sanction of the requirement that the Jones Act seaman must be aboard "primarily in aid of navigation", and in that case the question at issue was the sufficiency of the evidence to justify a holding under the Longshoremen's Act.
Senko v. La Crosse Dredging Corp., 1957, 352 U.S. 370, 77 S.Ct. 415, 1 L.Ed. 2d 404, rehearing denied 353 U.S. 931, 77 S.Ct. 716, 1 L.Ed.2d 724 resolved some of the doubts the per curiam opinion in Gianfala raised. Senko was a handyman on a dredge. The dredge was anchored to shore and was used as a stationary earth-removing machine. He had applied to his union (Common Laborer's Union) for a job. The foreman of a construction gang assigned him to a job as "deckhand" or "laborer" on the
In finding support for the jury finding, the majority took into consideration Senko's duty "to maintain the dredge during its anchorage and for its future trips". This, the majority felt, "would have a significant navigational function when the dredge was put in transit". Substantially all of the petitioner's duties were performed on or for the dredge and therefore "a normal inference is that the petitioner was responsible for its seaworthiness". We take the phrase "significant navigational function" to mean something less than the phrase "aboard naturally and primarily in aid of navigation".
In Grimes v. Raymond Concrete Pile Co., 1958, 356 U.S. 252, 78 S.Ct. 687, 688, 2 L.Ed.2d 737 a contractor was building a "Texas Tower", a radar station, 110 miles seaward of Cape Cod, permanently affixed to the floor of the ocean. The tower was constructed under a government contract subject to the Defense Bases Act (42 U.S.C.A. §§ 1651-1654).
Shortly after deciding that a worker driving piles might be a seaman, the Supreme Court decided that an employee doing odd jobs around his employer's wharf might also be a seaman. Butler v. Whiteman, 1958, 356 U.S. 271, 78 S.Ct. 734, 735, 2 L.Ed.2d 754. Butler was last seen alive running across a barge to a tug, both owned by Butler's employer. The plaintiff's theory of the case was that the respondent was liable under the Jones Act because of his negligent failure to provide a gangplank for crossing between the two vessels. For some months before the accident the tug had been withdrawn from navigation as inoperable and for a year the tug had neither captain nor crew. Mr. Justice Harlan, with whom Mr. Justice Whitaker joined, dissented: "[It] taxes imagination to the breaking point to consider [Butler] * * * a seaman."
Appellants in the instant case — correctly, we think
In the Savoie case the decedent, Guidry, was killed while working on a fixed platform in a navigable lake. Guidry, a roustabout, was carried from well-platform to well-platform aboard a lugger, the "Mary Virginia". He was on one of these platforms when he was killed by an
On rehearing this Court found a "factual distinction between [Senko and Savoie in] that in the [Savoie case] there was no evidence reasonably tending to show that the decedent was a member of the crew"; he was "merely a passenger" and had no duties to perform in connection with its operation.
Reading Savoie as a gloss on the cases cited, particularly Senko, this Court's position may be stated, affirmatively: there is an evidentiary basis for a Jones Act case to go to the jury: (1) if there is evidence that the injured workman was assigned permanently to a vessel (including special purpose structures not usually employed as a means of transport by water but designed to float on water) or performed a substantial part of his work on the vessel; and (2) if the capacity in which he was employed or the duties which he performed contributed to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission, or to the operation or welfare of the vessel in terms of its maintenance during its movement or during anchorage for its future trips.
The Savoie case is not this case. There was no showing that Savoie performed any duties on the lugger; he was a passenger on a water-taxi. His duties related entirely to work on permanently fixed well platforms. Robison was attached, permanently, to Offshore No. 55. Offshore No. 55 is not a man-made island. Like the submersible barge in Gianfala, Offshore No. 55 was a special purpose vessel, a floating drilling platform. Robison's duties aboard that vessel contributed to her mission, to the operating function she was designed to perform as a sea-going drilling platform. Some of Robison's duties had a "significant navigational function", like Senko's in that they related to the seaworthiness, maintenance (welfare) of Offshore No. 55. Some of his duties — to which a jury might have attached importance — though minor are traditionally the duties of seamen in that they related to the movement of the vessel as a means of transport on water.
Attempts to fix unvarying meanings have a firm legal significance to such terms as "seaman", "vessel", "member of a crew" must come to grief on the facts. These terms have such a wide range of meaning,
Under the Jones Act, judicial appraisal of the proofs to determine whether a jury question is presented is narrowly limited to the single inquiry whether, with reason, the conclusion may be drawn that the claimant was a seaman, a member of a crew of a vessel. In the recent case of Rogers v. Missouri Pacific R. Co., 1957, 352 U.S. 500, 507, 77 S.Ct. 443, 448, 1 L.Ed.2d 493, in an analogous situation, the Supreme Court stated that under the FELA "the test of a jury case is simply whether the proofs justify with reason the conclusion that employer negligence played any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury or death for which damages are sought". Even if the test were substantial supporting evidence, on the record as it comes to us, we would have to hold that there was a sufficient evidentiary basis for the trial court to submit the case to the jury.
Appellants complain of certain instructions of the trial court, especially on the ground that the instructions minimized the test that in order to recover the worker be "aboard primarily to aid in navigation". Our review of the cases shows this test has been watered down until the words have lost their natural meaning. On the Senko facts, "significant navigational function" is not an equivalent test. [352 U.S. 370, 77 S.Ct. 418.] With due deference to the Supreme Court, we attach less importance to either of these catchphrases than we do to the cases piled on cases in which recovery is allowed when by no stretch of the imagination can it be said that the claimant had anything to do with navigation and is a member of the ship's company only in the sense that his duties have a connection with the mission or the function of the floatable structure where he was injured.
There is no reason for lamentations. Expansion of the terms "seaman" and "vessel" are consistent with the liberal construction of the Act that has characterized it from the beginning and is consistent with its purposes. Within broad limits of what is reasonable, Congress has seen fit to allow juries to decide who are seamen under the Jones Act. There is nothing in the act to indicate that Congress intended the law to apply only to conventional members of a ship's company. The absence of any legislative restriction has enabled the law to develop naturally along with the development of unconventional vessels, such as the strange-looking specialized watercraft designed for oil operations offshore and in the shallow coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Many of the Jones Act seamen on these vessels share the same marine risks to which all aboard are subject. And in many instances Jones Act seamen are exposed to more hazards than are blue-water sailors. They run the risk of top-heavy drilling barges collapsing. They run all the risks incident to oil drilling.
The admiralty doctrine of absolute liability for unseaworthiness is based on protection of seamen who sign articles for a voyage and are then under the absolute control of a master with power to order seamen to do the ship's work in any weather, under any conditions, using such equipment as may be furnished by the shipowner. Appellants argue that the warranty of seaworthiness has no application here.
Seas Shipping Co. v. Sieracki, 1946, 328 U.S. 85, 66 S.Ct. 872, 90 L.Ed. 1099 applied the doctrine of recovery for unseaworthiness to a longshoreman; Pope & Talbot, Inc. v. Hawn, 1953, 346 U.S. 406, 74 S.Ct. 202, 98 L.Ed. 143, to a workman for an independent contractor who was adjusting "feeders" used to load a vessel with grain; Alaska Steamship Co. v. Petterson, 1954, 347 U.S. 396, 74 S.Ct. 601, 98 L.Ed. 798, to a stevedore injured because of the breaking of a snatch-block brought aboard ship by the stevedore's employer. Rogers v. United States Line, 1954, 347 U.S. 984, 74 S.Ct. 849, 98 L.Ed. 1120 affirmed the broad application of the warranty of seaworthiness, as stated in Peterson. These and other cases stretch the warranty close to its breaking point in applying it to land-based harbor workers whose status as seamen is more dubious than Robison's. The only contrary authority cited by appellants is an able opinion by Judge Barnes for the Ninth Circuit, Berryhill v. Pacific Far East Lines, 1957, 238 F.2d 385. In that case Judge Barnes pointed out that in Sieracki and similar cases recovery was allowed because the stevedores do a seaman's work and incur a seaman's hazards; not so with Berryhill, who was injured when a grinding wheel furnished by his employer, a shipyard corporation, disintegrated while he was making repairs to machinery of a ship in dry-dock.
On the facts of this case, there was sufficient evidence for the case to go to the jury for the determination of whether Robison was a seaman, a member of the crew of a vessel, for purposes of the Jones Act and for purposes of recovering under the warranty of seaworthiness.
We have considered all of the other points relied on by the parties to this appeal. We find it unnecessary to discuss these points.
The judgment is
CAMERON, Circuit Judge: I dissent.
Question Verdict "(1) Was `Offshore No. 55' a vessel? Yes "(2) If so, was Robison a member of the Crew of that vessel? Yes "(3) If so, was the Defendant negligent or the vessel unseaworthy? "(4) If so, was that negligence or unseaworthiness a proximate cause of Robison's injury? Yes "(5) If so, was Robison also guilty of negligence which contributed to his injury? Yes "(6) If so, to what extent did that negligence contribute to his injuries? 25% "(7) What is the total damages suffered by Robison? $3,000.00."