In a workers' compensation case with a bit of a twist, there is a debate over whether or not a riverboat casino that has rarely moved from the dock in nearly six years still falls under the jurisdiction of federal maritime law.
The claimants lawyer, Karl Truman with offices in Kentucky and Indiana cleverly used a federal law known as the Jones Act to seek greater money for his client.
Tina Conder, a former employee of the Glory of Rome riverboat, which serves as the Caesars Indiana casino, claims that she has had serious medical complications due to flea bites she received while working as a dealer for the Harrison County, Indiana casino. She and her attorneys argue that the casino is still considered a boat and are seeking unspecified damages under federal maritime law.
Conder's attorneys say that this case could change how gambling boats in the U.S. are regulated and will determine if their workers are covered under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is an 88-year-old federal law that provides significantly higher benefits to maritime workers who are injured than they could typically expect from the state workman's compensation laws.
In April of 2005, Conder filed suit for damages including medical expenses, legal fees, and pain and suffering. It has been rare for casino workers to succeed when invoking maritime law, but Conder took a big step toward success when a judge concluded that she was indeed covered.
In her suit, Conder says she allegedly suffered disabling health problems due to flea bites on her legs, arms, head, and torso. Parts of her body were covered in blisters that filled with blood, leading her to be diagnosed with a blood disorder called hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES).
Conder also claims in her suit that the large steroid doses she received as treatment for the bites resulted in two heart attacks. The casino has been accused by the suit of negligence for failure to maintain a seaworthy vessel in accordance with the Jones Act.