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Health Issues Caused By Excessive Working Hours Not Enough for an Seaman’s Negligence Claim Against Employer Under Jones Act

In Skye v. Maersk Line, the 11th Circuit was posed with the question of whether a seaman, former chiefmate, could recover monetary damages under the Jones Act for an injury stemming from excessive overtime work hours to the point of fatigue and erratic sleep schedule. Skye was diagnosed in 2000 with benign arrhythmia and received doctor’s recommendations to rest more. His diagnosis did not change three years later, and, in fact, he worked more, with duties including logging cargo, and inspection of cargo. In addition to his arrhythmia, by 2008, he developed headaches and burning sensations in the chest. He was ordered by his doctor to stop working for employer.

Skye then filed a lawsuit in 2011 against the employer for negligence under the Jones Act for failure to provide reasonable working hours, and adequate crew. At trial, the jury found in favor of Skye and awarded damages, which were reduced by the district court. However, on appeal, the 11th Circuit disagreed and held that an injury caused by work-related stress was not actionable under the Jones Act because work-related stress is not a “physical peril,” for which an employee could bring a claim under the Act.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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