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Heise v. Fishing Co.

filed: March 19, 1996.

JON HEISE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE FISHING COMPANY OF ALASKA, INC., A WASHINGTON CORPORATION; ALASKAN RANGER, HER ENGINES, TACKLE, GEAR, EQUIPMENT, AND APPURTENANCES, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Alaska. D.C. No. CV-92-00772-JKS. James K. Singleton, District Judge, Presiding.

Before: Betty B. Fletcher, Alex Kozinski, and Edward Leavy, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Fletcher.

Author: Fletcher

FLETCHER, Circuit Judge:

Jon Heise appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Fishing Company of Alaska (FCA). The district court held (1) that Heise was not a seaman and therefore not entitled to remedies available under the Jones Act and (2) that the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) barred his suit for negligence against FCA. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and affirm.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

FCA owns and operates several fishing vessels, including the Alaska Ranger. In November 1989, the Alaska Ranger completed its work for the fishing season and put in at Seward, Alaska for repairs and annual maintenance. Most crew members departed, though some officers, engineers and supervisors remained to conduct the repairs and maintenance together with temporary workers and specialist contractors. The repairs were to include rebuilding the main engines, which had been damaged by water in the fuel, and rewelding a crack in the fuel tank.

FCA's personnel manager hired Heise as a temporary laborer, assigned to the category of "assistant engineer" to be paid $15 per hour. Heise, who had never previously worked on a seagoing vessel, did not complete an employment application or sign an employment contract. Heise travelled from Anchorage to Seward to take the job and was allowed to sleep on the vessel since he was from out of town and most of the crew quarters were empty. Heise began work on December 11, 1989; he figured that the job would last about a month, given the extent of the work to be done. However, he hoped he would be able to stay with the ship when she sailed.

At a point in the repairs when the Alaska Ranger 's engines were disassembled, she was moved by tug alongside a sister ship, the Alaska I, so that equipment on the latter vessel could be used in repairing the former. On December 22, after use of the Alaska I equipment was completed, a tug moved the Alaska Ranger back to her original location. Heise and another temporary worker received and secured the vessel's mooring lines on board the vessel. At the end of the process, Heise complained of severe back pain. FCA made arrangements for him to see a local doctor later that day, and the doctor ordered Heise to rest for a week. FCA put Heise up at a local hotel for the week. At the end of the week, Heise sought to return to work but FCA denied him further employment.

On January 6, 1990, work on the Alaska Ranger was completed and she underwent sea tests; the next day she departed for her first fishing run of the year.

PROCEEDINGS BELOW

Heise filed a complaint against FCA in the district court seeking compensatory and punitive damages for FCA's alleged breaches of its duties of care and for unseaworthiness under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. App. § 688(a). Alternatively, Heise sought damages for negligence under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. § 905(b).*fn1

After discovery, FCA moved for summary judgment, arguing that as a matter of law Heise was not a seaman entitled to remedies under the Jones Act and that the LHWCA barred his negligence claims. The district court granted summary judgment, finding that undisputed facts established that Heise was hired for land-based work, not sea-based maritime work, and consequently was not a seaman entitled to remedies under the Jones Act. As to Heise's negligence claims under the LHWCA, the court held as a matter of law that the Act bars an employee's suit against his immediate employer and hence barred Heise's suit against FCA.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A grant of summary judgment is reviewed de novo. Warren v. City of Carlsbad, 58 F.3d ...


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