Caldwell v. St. Charles Gaming Co d/b/a Isle of Capri Casino-Lake CharlesAnnotate this Case
Plaintiff was employed by defendant Grand Palais Riverboat L.L.C. as a technician on the Grand Palais riverboat casino, and was injured when the gangway attached to the boat malfunctioned and collapsed. Plaintiff filed a petition for damages, alleging that the Grand Palais was a vessel under general maritime law, 1 U.S.C. 3, and that he was a seaman under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 30104, et seq., at the time of the accident. The Grand Palais was built as a riverboat casino in conformity with the requirements of Louisiana law which authorize gaming activities to be conducted on riverboat casinos that sail on designated waterways. In 2001, the Grand Palais was moored to its current location by nylon mooring lines and steel wire cables, pursuant to La. R. S. 27:65(B)(1)(c), which allowed riverboat casinos to conduct gaming activities while docked if the owner obtained the required license and paid the required franchise fees. The Grand Palais had not moved since March 24, 2001. Necessary services for the Grand Palais’s operation as a casino were provided via shore-side utility lines, which supply electricity, water, sewage, cable television, telephone and internet services. These utility lines have not been disconnected since 2001. Additionally, the casino computer systems, including the slot machines, are located on land. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to review an appellate court's decision granting plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and holding the Grand Palais Casino was indeed a “vessel” for purposes of general maritime law. The Court determined this decision contradicted the court’s earlier decision in Benoit v. St. Charles Gaming Company, LLC, 233 So. 3d 615, cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 139 S. Ct. 104, 202 L. Ed. 2d 29 (2018), which held the Grand Palais was not a vessel. After a de novo review of the record, the Louisiana Court concluded the Grand Palais was a not vessel under general maritime law. Therefore, it reversed the judgment of the court of appeal and granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing plaintiff’s suit.