Jeffersonville, Ind. Attn. Karl Truman to Appeal Riverboat Casino Jones Act Ruling

Nov. 26, 2008

The Indiana Court of Appeals has rejected a former casino dealer’s attempt to seek compensation under federal maritime law for alleged injuries she suffered while working aboard the Harrison County riverboat near Louisville.

The court said the dealer doesn’t qualify as a maritime worker, and therefore isn’t entitled to enhanced  coverage under the Jones Act,  because the Riverboat Casino  where she dealt cards is primarily used for gambling, not navigation.

Conder may still be entitled to state workman’s compensation benefits for serious medical complications that her lawyers said stemmed from flea bites she received while dealing poker.Karl Truman of Jeffersonville, Conder’s lawyer, said he will appeal the ruling and is willing to go as far as the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It seems the (appeals) court relied heavily on what Caesars said their intent was with the boat,” Truman said.

Harrison County health department records showed the casino had battled a flea infestation during the time Conder said she was bitten. Her lawyers asserted that the casino had been negligent for failing to maintain a seaworthy vessel as required by the Jones Act.

The 1920 law was enacted to ensure that maritime workers were fairly compensated for injuries while facing the heightened risks posed by serving aboard ships and towboats.

A year ago, Harrison Circuit Judge H. Lloyd “Tad” Whitis ruled that Conder was a Jones Act seaman and therefore was eligible for the far more generous compensation for medical expenses and lost wages than is usual under workman’s compensation.

Casino lawyers responded by appealing the Jones Act portion of the ruling to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Chief Justice John G. Baker wrote for the appeals court and cited a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that said a casino boat that was indefinitely moored no longer qualified as a vessel in navigation.

Conder is not “the type of employee that the Jones Act is intended to cover and protect,” Baker wrote.  Conder’s lawyer, Truman said federal appeals courts have been split on what types of workers the Jones Act covers, making the issue worthy of U.S. Supreme Court review.

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