In its July 3, 2019 decision in the consolidated case of Don Caldwell and Sheronda Caldwell v. St. Charles Gaming Company d/b/a ISLE OF CAPRI CASINO-LAKE CHARLES, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Grand Palais casino was still a vessel for purposes of liability and litigation.
The instant case arose from injuries allegedly sustained by plaintiff Don Caldwell on April 9, 2015 while operating a scissor lift on a casino, the Grand Palais, moored in Lake Charles.
Prior to 2001, the Grand Palais casino was required under the older law to sail and would obviously be deemed a vessel prior to that time. It had not sailed since August 2001, once the law was changed to no longer require it to sail.
The Plaintiffs submitted the Grand Palais had not been removed from navigation, laid up or mothballed. They noted for the court that the defendant-owner spent considerable time and expense to ensure that the vessel remained capable of operating as a riverboat casino. The evidence showed that although it ceased daily excursions in 2001, the Grand Palais was capable of navigation at the time Don Caldwell was injured in April 2015. They showed the court that the Grand Palais was connected to the dock by temporary connections and gangways, which were designed to be lifted, retracted and allow it to be made ready to sail in thirty minutes. Further, it was shown that the Grand Palais had not been disabled, removed from the water, sunk to the bottom of the lake, nor enclosed in a cofferdam.
The court found the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Stewart v. Dutra, 543 U.S. 481, and Lozman City of Riviera Beach, Fla , 568 U.S. 115, to be controlling. They ruled the Grand Palais was a vessel at the time of the incident and that the trial court should have granted the motion for summary judgment by plaintiff Caldwell allowing him to bring his personal injury action as a Jones Act seaman.
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