The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed that ship construction workers are not covered under maritime law. Casas v. U.S. Joiner, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 5099, March 10, 2010.
Casas an employee of Land Coast Insulation, Inc., tripped, fell, and was injured while installing insulation in a compartment of an amphibious transport dock (LPD-19) under construction in Northrup Grumman's Pascagoula, Mississippi shipyard. He brought maritime tort claims as well as Mississippi state law tort claims against Northrup Grumman and U.S. Joiner.
28 U.S.C. § 1333(1) gives district courts original jurisdiction over "any civil case of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction." A party seeking to invoke admiralty jurisdiction over a tort claim must show that the tort has (1) a "maritime situs" and (2) a "maritime nexus" (i.e., that the alleged wrong bears a "significant relationship to a traditional maritime activity"). The district court found that Casas' tort claim had no maritime nexus because U.S. Joiner's alleged negligence arose in the context of shipbuilding, which is not a maritime activity. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the District Court's holding that an injury to a worker on board a ship under construction and lying in navigable waters is not a maritime tort.
Ship construction workers may, however, be covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.