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Lane v. Grand Casinos of Mississippi Inc.

March 26, 1998

DOROTHY A. LANE
v.
GRAND CASINOS OF MISSISSIPPI, INC. - GULFPORT



DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/25/95 TRIAL JUDGE: HON. KOSTA N. VLAHOS COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Smith, Justice, For The Court:

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - PERSONAL INJURY

MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:

MANDATE ISSUED:

EN BANC.

¶1. Dorothy Lane, while a janitorial service employee of the Gulfport Grand Casino, suffered injuries to her shoulder when she fell after being struck by a buffing machine operated by a fellow employee. Lane brought suit arguing that she was entitled to recover under the Jones Act and general maritime law.

¶2. Grand Casino argues that Lane was not entitled to relief under the Jones Act or general maritime law because Lane was not a seaman and the Grand Casino was not a vessel within the meaning of either the Jones Act or general maritime law. Grand Casino subsequently moved for summary judgment arguing that Lane was not a seaman for purposes of the Jones Act or general maritime law and that dockside casinos are not vessels within the meaning of either the Jones Act or general maritime law. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Grand Casino and dismissed the suit. Lane appealed to this Court arguing that the trial judge erroneously determined that a dockside casino does not constitute a vessel for purposes of the Jones Act or general maritime law.

¶3. This Court has recently considered this exact factual situation and held that an employee under similar circumstances could not qualify as a seaman, thus the employee was not entitled to Jones Act or general maritime law benefits. See Thompson v. Casino Magic Corp., No. 96-00458-SCT, (Miss. Mar. 12, 1998). The Thompson Court stated, "However, it should be made clear that in each case the trial court must consider the factual circumstances of each particular case in light of the concerns expressed in this opinion as well as by the Fifth Circuit's comments in Pavone v. Mississippi Riverboat Amusement Corp. as quoted supra when determining if a particular barge is a vessel for purposes of federal maritime jurisdiction. On the facts of this particular case, since Thompson is not a seaman, we need not determine whether the Casino Magic Barge is a vessel for maritime purposes." Thompson, No. 96-00458-SCT, slip op. at 6.

¶4. Considering the facts of this particular case, we find that Lane's position of employment in janitorial service did not constitute a substantial relationship to the navigation of the Grand nor expose her to the perils of the sea. Lane was merely a land based janitorial employee who happened to be working on the Grand at the time of the accident. Thus, Lane was not a seaman for purposes of the Jones Act or general maritime law. This Court need not determine whether the barge at issue is a vessel for maritime purposes. STATEMENT OF FACTS

¶5. Dorothy Lane (hereinafter "Lane") was employed by the Gulfport Grand Casino (hereinafter "the Grand") and served in the capacity of janitorial services when on or about March 23, 1994, Lane received injuries to her left shoulder when she fell after being struck by a buffing machine operated by a fellow employee. On November 23, 1994, Lane filed her complaint alleging negligence on the part of the casino and its employees. Lane alleged that she was entitled to recover damages under the Jones Act and general maritime law because the dockside casino is a vessel for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction.

¶6. In response, the Grand denied liability and argued that Lane was not entitled to recover under the Jones Act or general maritime law because she was not a seaman nor is the casino a vessel. Furthermore, the Grand asserted that Lane's exclusive remedy was the Mississippi Compensation Act under which compensation and medical benefits were being paid. On July 14, 1995, the Grand filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and for Sanctions.

¶7. After review, Judge Vlahos, relying on precedent of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, granted summary judgment in favor of the Grand Casino and dismissed the case with prejudice holding that the Grand Casino was not a vessel for purposes of the Jones Act or general maritime law. Judge Vlahos specifically found:

The Gulfport Grand Casino is a barge platform and falls outside any of the tests for vessel status. It was not designed as a vessel for the transportation of passengers, equipment, or cargo, but as a dockside, shore based casino. Any navigational function of the Gulfport Grand Casino is incident to its primary purpose of serving as a stationary dockside casino. At the time of the Plaintiff's alleged accident, the Gulfport Grand Casino was not in navigation but was ...


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