Admiralty- Conflict of Laws – Application of the Jones Act

Admiralty traditionally did not give a seaman a right of action for negligence unless it could be attributed to the unseaworthiness of the vessel. An injured seaman was limited to two remedies: an action for maintenance and cure, or an action based on -unseaworthiness. To remedy this situation, Congress in 1920 passed the Jones Act. This act was framed in terms of “any seaman who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment,” and gave to such seamen all the rights granted by statutes modifying or extending the common law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees. Although this act accomplished its purpose of giving injured seamen an action for negligence, it did not specify who was included within the term “any seaman,” but left this to judicial interpretation. Through the years, there has been a gradual movement away from the pre-Jones Act conception that maritime torts should be governed by the law of the Hag, and an extension of the statute on the basis of other factors. A recent decision by the United States Supreme Court has given some indication as to which of these factors should bear the most weight in” the choice of law applicable to a maritime I tort and has indicated a retreat from the more recent extensions.