Holloway v. Pagan River Dockside Seafood, Inc., No. 11-1046

Decided Feb. 27, 2012

Timothy Holloway had an agreement with Pagan River whereby Holloway would catch oysters or crabs and give a portion of the proceeds from their sale to Pagan River as a “fee” for using the company’s vessel. While unloading a haul on Pagan River’s dock, Holloway’s hand was caught and injured on a conveyor belt. Holloway subsequently brought a claim against Pagan River under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104, alleging himself to be a seaman employed by Pagan River and injured as a result of its negligence. Pagan River then brought a 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of federal subject matter jurisdiction which, after a finding that Holloway had not provided sufficient evidence that he met the definition of “seaman” under the Jones Act, was granted by the district court.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed the dismissal and remanded the matter for further proceedings. The court admonished the parties and lower court, reminding them that stating a colorable claim under a federal statute was enough to give the district court subject matter jurisdiction. Whether Holloway could satisfy all the elements of the claim was a question to be resolved after the record had been developed and would be a factual or legal determination more appropriately handled by trial or summary judgment, not a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction.

Full Opinion

-C. Alexander Cable

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