The First Department, over a dissent, in a complex decision which cannot be fairly summarized here, determined: (1) under the Jones Act Ohio had jurisdiction to appoint administrators for decedent who allegedly died from asbestos exposure on merchant marine ships where he was employed; and (2) substitution of a New York personal representative, executor of the estate, was proper and timely:
… [T]he Jones Act provides that when a seaman dies from an employment injury “the personal representative of the seaman may elect to bring a civil action at law, with the right of trial by jury, against the employer” (46 USC § 30104).
The Jones Act grants a right of action to the personal representative “without other description” … . The Act does not require that the personal representative be either “a domiciliary or ancillary administrator” … . A domiciliary administrator has standing to file a Jones Act or FELA [Federal Employers’ Liability Act] lawsuit in another state … . However, nothing “explicitly clothes a domiciliary administrator with the exclusive right to maintain such an action” because such a requirement is inconsistent with “the remedial nature” of FELA and the “representative character” of such a suit … .
Notably, the personal representative’s authority under the Jones Act derives from “a federal statutory right and power given to carry out the policy of the federal statutes” and “is not limited to the confines of the State where he was appointed but is co-extensive with general federal jurisdiction” … . Bartel v Maersk Line, Ltd., 2023 NY Slip Op 02058, First Dept 4-20-23
Practice Point: Under the Jones Act, the estate of a merchant-marine employee who died from exposure to asbestos on the employer’s ships may sue the employer. Here the suit was deemed properly started by administrators appointed by an Ohio court and the New York executor was properly and timely substituted for the Ohio administrators.
See also the companion decision: Bartel v Farrell Lines, 2023 NY Slip Op 02057, First Dept 4-20-23