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What do you have to prove in a Jones Act Negligence claim?

Cargo ship on the open sea


Employer's Duty to Provide a Safe Place to Work

The employer of a seaman owes the seaman a duty under the Jones Act to provide the seaman a safe place to work.  This duty extends to providing a safe place to work on the ship of a third party over which the employer has no control, if that is where the seaman's employer sends him or her to work.


Negligence Defined as Lack of Reasonable Care:

Reasonable care is the degree of care that reasonably prudent persons would use under like circumstances to avoid injury to themselves or others. Negligence is the doing of something that a reasonably prudent person would not do, or the failure to do something that a reasonably prudent person would do, under the circumstances.



Negligence under the Jones Act is a cause of an injury if it played any part, no matter how slight, in bringing about the injury or damage, even if the negligence operated in combination with the acts of another, or in combination with some other cause.



Even the slightest negligence” is sufficient to support a Jones Act finding of negligence. This test is often described as a “featherweight causation standard” and allows a seaman to survive summary judgment by presenting even the slightest proof of causation.

Causation is different under a Jones negligence claim and an unseaworthiness claim

The causal requirements for Jones Act negligence and under the doctrine of unseaworthiness are different. Separate causation jury instructions, therefore, will be necessary where both claims for relief are asserted.



To recover under a Jones Act claim, a plaintiff has the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence, negligence on the part of his employer ... and that the act of negligence was a cause, however slight, of his injuries.

According to the
Ninth Circuit Model Civil Jury Instructions you have to prove the following elements:

On the plaintiff’s Jones Act negligence claim, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence:

1. the plaintiff was a seaman;

2. the defendant was negligent; and

3. the defendant’s negligence was a cause of the injury or damage to the plaintiff.

If you find the plaintiff has proved the elements on which [he] [she] has the burden of proof, your verdict should be for the plaintiff. If, on the other hand, the plaintiff has failed to prove any of these elements, your verdict should be for the defendant.


An employer is only liable under the Jones Act if the employer or its agents either knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. 


The employer will be charged with "constructive notice" if, in the exercise of reasonable care, they ought to have known about or have discovered the alleged dangerous condition.  The Jones Act employer has a responsibility to inspect the work site in order to provide its employees with a safe working place.


If you want to learn more about negligence and how it affects your Jones Act case the get a FREE copy of my Win Your Injury Case book here.


William Turley
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