FROM THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
CALCASIEU, NO. 2014-568 HONORABLE DAVID A. RITCHIE, DISTRICT
L. Bateman, Bateman Law Firm, COUNSEL FOR
PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES: Carl Joseph Benoit, Patricia Faye
D. Wallace, Bruce V. Schewe, Evans Martin McLeod, Meredith W.
Blanque, Phelps, Dunbar, LLP, COUNSEL FOR
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT: St. Charles Gaming Company, Inc. d/b/a
Isle of Capri Casino -Lake Charles.
composed of John D. Saunders, Marc T. Amy, Elizabeth A.
Pickett, Billy Howard Ezell, and D. Kent Savoie, Judges.
J., concurs and assigns reasons. Saunders, J., dissents with
ELIZABETH A. PICKETT JUDGE.
defendant owner of a riverboat casino appeals the trial
court's denial of its motion for summary judgment and
grant of summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff that its
casino is a vessel and that the plaintiff is a Jones Act
seaman. For the following reasons, we reverse the trial
court's judgment and grant judgment in favor of the
Benoit went to work as a deckhand for St. Charles Gaming Co.,
Inc. d/b/a Isle of Capri Casino - Lake Charles in 1995 on the
Grand Palais Casino (the Grand Palais), a riverboat casino,
moored in Lake Charles. He was injured in August 2013 when a
coworker fell from a ladder onto him and began receiving
Louisiana workers' compensation benefits. Mr. Benoit and
his wife sued St. Charles, alleging that the Grand Palais is
a vessel under general maritime law, 1 U.S.C. § 3; that
he is a seaman and member of the Grand Palais's crew
under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104 et seq; that the
Grand Palais was unseaworthy under general maritime law; and
that St. Charles owes him maintenance and cure, attorney
fees, and damages, as result of the injuries he suffered in
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. La.R.S. 27:41-113, formerly La.R.S.
4:501-562. In 2001, St. Charles moored the Grand Palais at
its current location in Westlake by nylon mooring lines and
steel wire cables, pursuant to La.R.S. 27:65(B)(1)(c) which
allows riverboat casinos to conduct gaming activities while
docked if the owner obtained the required license.
Grand Palais has not moved since March 24, 2001. Necessary
services for the Grand Palais' operation as a casino are
provided via shore-side utility lines, which supply
electricity, water, telephone service, sewage, cable
television, and internet services that have not been
disconnected since 2001. Additionally, the casino computer
systems, including the slot machines, for the Grand
Palais' gaming activities are now located on land. Guests
enter the Grand Palais from shore via a steel structure
incorporated into the interior of the land-based Isle of
Charles filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking
dismissal of the Benoits' claims against it on the basis
that the Grand Palais is not a vessel under general maritime
law; therefore, Mr. Benoit is not a seaman. The Benoits filed
a cross motion for summary judgment on the same issues,
asserting that the Grand Palais is a vessel and that Mr.
Benoit is a seaman.
hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of
the Benoits, finding that the Grand Palais is a vessel as
defined by general maritime law and that Mr. Benoit is,
therefore, a Jones Act seaman. St. Charles appealed.
Charles assigns the following errors with the trial
1. The [trial] court erred in ruling that on August 28,
2013[, ] the Grand Palais Casino was a vessel within the