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The Turley & Mara Law Firm, APLC

Jones Act: Assumption of the Risk vs. Comparative Fault

Assumption Of The Risk vs. Comparative Fault

Assumption of the risk is a defense brought by a Defendant to diminish or defeat an injured person's recovery. The assumption of the risk defense entails the Defendant proving that the plaintiff knew of a dangerous condition and voluntarily exposed himself or herself to the danger. The assumption of the risk defense derives from the common law. Under the common law, if the injured person assumed the risk, it was a complete defense.


There Is No Assumption of the Risk For Jones Act Seaman

Assumption of risk is not a defense to a suit brought by Seaman under the Jones Act. The master of the vessel has the duty to provide a safe appliances or a safe place in which to work. The master/ vessel can not assert that the Seaman assumed the risk of an unsafe appliance or unsafe place to work.


Comparative Fault

Instead, comparative negligence applies to Seaman. Assumption of risk and contributory negligence on part of seaman are considered as part of comparative negligence.

If a breach of a duty owed by the Seaman to the employer was the sole and proximate cause of his injury, then recovery would be barred, not because of contributory negligence, but rather because no negligence of employers was in the chain of causation. But if the Seaman was injured because of his employer's negligence which combined with his own neglect of duty to his employer, then doctrine of comparative negligence would be applicable.

Comparative fault is also applied in strict liability action for unseaworthiness, in personal injury actions for negligence under Jones Act , and actions brought under Death on the High Seas Act

Seaman cannot be found comparatively negligent when following order to complete task in specific manner. Also, Seaman do not assume the risk of avoidable weather risks.


Reasonable Prudent Person Standard

The determination of whether the injured Seaman has been comparatively negligent is made by judging conduct of seaman against that of reasonably prudent person under the circumstances. The seaman's duty to exercise reasonable care is slight. A Seaman has no duty to find the safest way to perform work. But rather, the duty to provide for a safe course of conduct lies primarily with the vessel owner.


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William Turley
“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S., I want it straight up. I figure you do also.”

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