June 5, 2014
April 7, 2024

Jones Act Preferential Trial Settings

One thing Plaintiffs want are reasonably quick resolutions to their cases.  Generally, once filed, cases resolve within 18-24 months which is not a long time in the litigation world but an extremely long time for an injured person.  Luckily, Jones Act seaman may potentially expedite the resolution of their cases through the law in Texas.

Pursuant to Section 23.101 of the Texas Government Code, the Court shall give “preference to hearings and trials of . . . claims under . . . the Jones Act.” TEX. GOV’T CODE § 23.101(a)(5) (emphasis added).  That means upon filing of a motion for preferential trial setting in a Jones Act case, the Court must set the Jones Act seaman’s case number one on the docket for trial.  However, this does not address when it will be set number one.  For example, a Court could grant a motion for preferential trial setting and simply set the case number one two years from the filing of the motion.  If that were to happen there would be no benefit to filing the motion in the first place.

Thus, in filing a motion for preferential trial setting, ask for an expedited and preferential trial setting.  However, don’t call it an expedited setting.  First, send an email to defense counsel requesting that the case be set 7 months from the filing of the motion.  For 99% of cases, this is a reasonable timeline.  If the defense agrees, great, go down and get your preferential trial setting by agreement.  If the defense waivers or says no, then incorporate their response in your motion.  Tell the Court that according to longstanding case law Jones Act seaman are wards of the Court—which is absolutely true.  Then describe the different manner in which seaman are treated as opposed to a workers’ compensation claimant.  While a workers’ compensation claimant usually begins collecting wages immediately, a Jones Act employer can hold out on paying maintenance and cure whether right or wrong.  Use this in your argument by telling the judge that if the defense gets its way your clients faces potentially years going without the maintenance and medical care he/she is afforded by law.  That way a judge is more likely to grant you both a quick and preferential trial setting.

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