Considerations of the concept of 'vessel' in American jurisdiction (Willard Stewart v. Dutra Construction Company)
Marine engineer Willard Stewart filed suit against the Dutra Construction Company in the US District Court of Massachusetts, USA. He was suing for compensation for a work-related accident. Stewart based his claim on the Jones Act and the principles of maritime law. Responsibility is based on the principle of risk in the Jones Act and applies to seamen employed on vessels. In order to obtain compensation, Stewart had to prove that the dredge on which the accident occurred was a vessel. If proved, he would be regarded as a seaman since he worked on it. The district court declared that a dredge was not a vessel. Stewart appealed and the appellate court upheld the first verdict. Stewart's case was appealed to the Supreme Court in order to define the idea of 'vessel' in the Jones Act and to decide if a dredge can be regarded as a vessel. The Supreme Court has yet to hand down a verdict. The author believes that the Jones Act should be interpreted narrowly and should not be applicable to all workers at sea, even those who work on immobile platforms in ports. The concept of 'vessel' in the Jones Act must be interpreted in a narrow sense.
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