US 5th Circuit’s Sanchez Ruling Applied in US 11th Circuit

US 5th Circuit’s Sanchez Ruling Applied in US 11th Circuit

A welder’s helper, Jose I. Tapia Montero, who had been performing work on a shrimp boat for two weeks while it was in port in Bayou La Batre, AL, sustained burns in a fire. He retained Arnold & Itkin, who filed suit in Alabama state court asserting claims under the Jones Act.  While plaintiff and defendant were diverse, creating federal court jurisdiction, Jones Act claims are ordinarily not removable to federal court. 

However, Hale Devall removed the case to the Southern District of Alabama on the grounds that plaintiff fraudulently pled Jones Act status to defeat federal jurisdiction. Plaintiff moved to remand the case back to state court in response. Hale Devall argued that the recent en banc decision of the U.S. Fifth Circuit, Sanchez v. Smart Fabricators of Tex., L.L.C., 997 F.3d 564 (5th. Cir. 2021), provided the correct analysis of Jones Act seaman status and that it should be applied in the U.S. Eleventh Circuit.  

Judge Terry Moorer agreed, becoming the first Court outside of the U.S. Fifth Circuit to adopt Sanchez and hold that it is in accordance with U.S. Supreme Court precedent.  The Court found that because plaintiff was a transitory worker providing specialized services on the vessel while it was in port and would not have sailed with the vessel when it departed, he could not satisfy the “nature” element of seaman status.  Thus, Judge Moorer held that defendants met their heavy burden of showing plaintiff could not prove Jones Act status and denied plaintiff’s Motion to Remand.

Judge Moorer’s ruling should help clear the way for the rationale of Sanchez to be widely adopted across the country as providing the most current and accurate analysis of seaman status under the Jones Act. 

Montero v. Van Nguyen, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31494, 2022 WL 551133 (S.D. Al. Feb. 22, 2022)(J. Moorer).

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