Gordon Jones has been in the news lately. Have you heard of him?
But you all have heard of the companies that killed him: Oil giant BP, and Transocean - the operator of the foreign flagged drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon.
Gordon was just 28 years old when he died on April 20th. He left a pregnant wife and child behind. His Facebook page lists his favorite movies as Caddyshack, Blazing Saddles, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. So you know he had a great sense of humor.
But his family will never hear his laughter again.
Gordon Jones' death focuses the public on an injustice which has plagued Americans for ninety years. Under an archaic law passed in 1920 called the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA), his wife cannot be compensated for her sadness, suffering and grief. His children will grow up without a father due to BP's malfeasance. But they cannot be compensated for the loss of their dad's love, nurture and guidance.
The law will not permit it.
DOHSA prohibits the grieving Jones family from recovering any compensation except the wages earned or to be earned by their father and husband. We have written about this inequitable archaic law before - "The Death on the High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."
Gordon Jones's story was recently covered in an article in Mother Jones - "Will the Cruise Industry Do BP's Dirty Work?
Today, CNN ran an article entitled "My Son's Family Deserves More from BP." The article was written by Gordon's father, Louisiana lawyer Keith Jones, who is interviewed by Larry King in the video below.
Mr. Jones' emotional grief over losing his son is overwhelming. But he is objective while explaining that DOHSA's prohibition against compensating his daughter-in-law and grandchildren is as illogical as it is unfair. He is taking steps to repeal DOHSA. Due to Mr. Jones' efforts, the Senate is considering a bill (Senate Bill 3463 introduced by Senator Leahey, and House Resolution 5503 by John Conyers) to repeal DOHSA. Both bills will permit damages for the surviving family members' loss of care, company and companionship - rather than just the dead man's earnings.
As the CNN article points out, foreign flagged cruise ships - and foreign flagged drilling rigs - love DOHSA. These industries and their lobbyists will dig in and fight the efforts to change the law, as Gordon's father point out in the CNN article:
"Support for these bills is growing, but we expect opposition from all the companies who don't want to pay fair compensation when, by their fault, someone on board their vessel is killed. Cruise lines have consistently opposed changes to DOHSA. Many of their passengers are, because of their youth or advanced age, not providing financial support to anyone. If a cruise ship crew member negligently kills one of these passengers, the cruise line is liable for funeral expenses and nothing more. All companies involved in offshore drilling and shipping have been vigorously opposed to changes in DOHSA."
Travel agents, cruise specialists, and cruise fans reading this - is this what you wish to support? Your trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), pays lobbyists millions to walk the halls of Congress and lobby against changing DOHSA. They want to make certain that the families of good, hard working people like Gordon Jones receive nothing for their grief, pain and suffering when they lose a loved on the high seas.
Don't let reckless corporations ruin our environment and people's lives and get away with it.
Do you want to help? Call us. Contact your Congressman or Congresswoman. Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. Do something, now.
Photograph of Gordon Jones family CNN
Photograph of Gordon Jones and son Gordon Jones Facebook