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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Weeks Marine Inc. rehired Jose J. Salinas on July 3, 2003, as a mate assigned to the dredge M/V BTD II. A short time after Weeks Marine assigned Salinas to the M/V BTD II, the company moved the dredge from a project in the Mississippi River to Weeks Marine’s repair facility in Houma, La. At the repair facility, supervisors assigned Salinas primarily to yard work; however, Captain Clyde J. Wyble Sr., captain of the M/V BTD II, testified that Salinas did some work associated with the M/V BTD II. While the M/V BTD II was at the repair facility, Salinas and the other members of the crew continued to sleep and eat on the M/V BTD II. On Oct. 14, 2003, Salinas became injured when he was carrying two batteries from a large truck to the M/V BTD II to recharge. The batteries weighed approximately 45 pounds each. Salinas had to carry the batteries from the yard across two gangways. The first gangway extended from the yard to a barge and the second gangway extended from the barge to the M/V BTD II. Salinas testified that the step down from the second gangway to the M/V BTD II was between a foot and a foot and a half. Salinas testified that he injured his back as he stepped from the gangway onto the M/V BTD II carrying the first battery. Salinas completed his shift and reported the injury to Captain Wyble the following day. The M/V BTD II returned to the Mississippi River in late October or early November of 2003. According to Salnias, Captain Wyble told him that he would have gone with the M/V BTD II as a mate if medical authorities had released him for work. A jury found that Salinas was a seaman acting in the course and scope of his employment when he was injured. The jury also found that the negligence of Weeks Marine was a legal cause of Salinas’ injury, and 70 percent of the negligence was attributable to Weeks Marine. Moreover, the jury found that the M/V BTD II was unseaworthy on the date of the incident, and the unseaworthy condition was a proximate cause of the occurrence or injury. Based on the jury’s findings, the trial court awarded Salinas $1,109,500 in compensatory damages and $87,000 in cure. HOLDING:Reversed and rendered in part; affirmed. The Jones Act, the court stated, provides a cause of action for maritime workers injured by an employer’s negligence. In a Jones Act case, the plaintiff’s causation burden is whether the proof justifies with reason the conclusion that employer negligence played any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury for which the claimant seeks damages. Texas courts, the court stated, have long recognized that in addition to the burden of proof being less stringent, the standard of appellate review in a Jones Act case is also less stringent than under the common law. Once the appellate court determines that some evidence about which reasonable minds could differ supports the verdict, the appellate court’s review is complete. Weeks Marine, the court stated, challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury’s finding that Salinas was a seaman. To be considered a seaman, the employee’s duties must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission; and the employee must have a connection to a vessel in navigation that is substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature and regularly exposes the employee to the perils of the sea. The personnel records, the court stated, show that Salinas was re-hired as a mate for a dredge and performed the work of a seaman as a mate until the dredge went to the yard for repair. Salinas’ connection to the dredge did not change when it was docked at the yard. Accordingly, the court found that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s finding that Salinas was a seaman. Weeks Marine next challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury’s finding that Salinas suffered $1,500,000 in future economic loss. The court noted testimony from Viola Gonzalez Lopez, a vocational rehabilitation counselor, that Salinas would be limited to only light work in the future which would likely pay a minimum wage. The court also noted testimony from Thomas H. Mayor, a University of Houston economics professor, who calculated Salinas’ future losses due to his injury, taking into account future wage increases, net of inflation and future interest rates. Mayor testified that the median of his two present value calculations of Salinas’ future economic loss was $803,030 based on an average net compensation that he would have received for the work he performed prior to the accident of $31,465 each year. The jury in the case, the court noted, awarded Salinas $1,500,000 in future economic loss. In reaching its figure, the court stated, the jury could have concluded that Salinas might not be able to find a job in the future even making minimum wage. Because the $1,500,000 award falls within the range of damages evidence, the court held that the evidence supporting the finding was not so weak as to make the finding. Weeks Marine then challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury’s findings that the M/V BTD II was unseaworthy on the date of the incident in question and that Weeks Marine was negligent. A shipowner, the court stated, owes to every member of the crew employed on its vessel the absolute duty to keep and maintain the ship, and all decks and passageways, appliances, gear, tools, parts and equipment of the vessel in seaworthy condition at all times. With regard to negligence, the court instructed the jury that employers of a seaman have a duty to provide their employees with a reasonably safe place to work. Accordingly, the court found that the record contains some evidence about which reasonable minds could differ to support the jury’s findings that the M/V BTD II was unseaworthy as defined by the jury charge and that Weeks Marine was negligent. Weeks Marine also contended that the trial court awarded Salinas a double recovery by awarding him both damages and cure. An injured seaman has two separate lines of recovery: damages, and maintenance and cure. In this case, the trial court excluded the amounts awarded by the jury for past and future medical expenses from the tort damage award and separately awarded cure. Accordingly, the court found no duplication in the amounts awarded by the trial court. In his cross appeal, Salinas contended that the trial court erred in reducing the compensatory damage recovery by 30 percent because Salinas elected to recover under his unseaworthiness claim, and Weeks Marine failed to request that a contributory negligence question be submitted to the jury. The court found that Weeks Marine waived its contributory negligence defense with regard to the unseaworthy claim. As a result, the court reversed the trial court’s judgment with respect to its reduction of the amount of damages awarded by the jury by thirty percent. The court then rendered judgment that Salinas was entitled to recover $1,585,000 in compensatory damages. OPINION:Lopez, C.J.; Alma L. Lopez, C.J., and Stone, J. Duncan, J. sat on the three-judge panel that heard the appeal but did not participate in the decision.

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