On July 21, 2003, George Brown had been employed as a seaman without missing a day of work for over 30 years. Working as a barge captain on a 376 foot long ocean going vessel carrying 120,000 barrels of oil, Brown fell about 10 feet from the top of a ladder and sustained a comminuted intertrochanteric fracture of his right hip.
In his ensuing lawsuit, Brown claimed that the boat's owner, Reinauer Transportation Company (which was also his employer) was negligent in that the ladder was unsafe. Under the Jones Act, a federal law that provides seamen with special protections in the area of personal injury lawsuits and places a duty on shipowners to provide a safe workplace, all Brown had to prove was that Reinauer violated some relevant law or regulation and that the violation contributed to his injury in a slight degree. That was easy in this case - the ladder had no handrail despite the requirements of a Coast Guard regulation - and Brown was granted summary judgment on liability.
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