Abbott Clay & Reed

What Limitations Does the Jones Act Have?

In Jones Act History, Jones Act Law, Maritime on July 15, 2009 at 7:42 PM

While the Jones Act is great in its intentions it does not cover many issues that are surfacing around the world today with maritime law.  Since being put into federal law in 1920, the Jones Acts has undergone much scrutiny as times have changed and we see more people choosing a maritime life.

Initially, this act was designed to give rights to seamen who were serving their country and risking their lives to do so.  This was a law that was passed to protect seamen from shipmasters and other crew members.  While this is great in theory, we see it become outdated due to more people finding a maritime life outside of the military service.

This act was also designed for maritime people that would be out at sea for years.  This means they would never be stepping a foot on land.  This is the very essence of why this act was passed through Congress.  Life on land and life at sea are two completely different things.  People who are living at sea are susceptible to having many issues occur that endanger their lives.  Something needed to be done to make sure that, during these long ventures at sea; people were protected by the rule of law.

People had been asking for a reform for years and, during the 1980s, people were demanding the Supreme Court step in and clearly state who and what this act was covering.  Finally, in 1995, the Supreme Court made a ruling and modernized this – at the time – 75 year old bill.

The definition of a seaman had been reformatted to protect people who were also living on land as well as the sea.  The ruling, known as Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, stated that anyone who was contributing to the livelihood of a vessel would be protected under the Jones Act.  The other side of this coin covered any sea-person as long as they contain a connection with a vessel or group of vessels and maintains a substantial time of labor and duration.

This revise of the Jones Act still leaves a lot of unanswered questions and the only real way to know for sure is to seek consultation from a maritime lawyer.  So, you see, the drawbacks of the Jones Act are a product of the Supreme Court not making the necessary clarifications as to what means what in this ever changing world of maritime law.

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