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Shipping Law

Personal Tort Liability

Until 1920, U.S. seapersons who were injured or killed as a result of negligence by a shipowner, master, or a fellow seaperson had a difficult time obtaining compensation through a tort action. Shipowners often defeated such actions by claiming contributory negligence on the injured seaperson's part. In addition, under federal law the seaperson did not have a right to a jury trial.

Congress enacted the JONES ACT of 1920 (46 U.S.C.A. § 688) to correct these problems. It granted the seaperson a right to a jury trial and abolished the contributory negligence defense. Under the act, an injured seaperson or a PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE in the event of the seaperson's death can sue the shipowner if the injury or death occurred in the course of the seaperson's employment on, or in connection with, a vessel.

In addition, Congress granted rights to those persons who work near ships in the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act of 1927 (33 U.S.C.A. §§ 901–910). This act established a federal system to compensate maritime workers for work-related injuries.

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