‘The Founders Could Not Possibly Have Imagined…’ [Fill In The Blank]

Two oil drilling rigs, two identical workplace accidents: One happens on a modular drilling rig atop Fixed Platform #3 (below), the other on Floating Rig #7. Depending on the severity of the injury and the talent of the plaintiff’s attorney, a claim on a floating rig is worth an order of magnitude more than the identical injury that occurred on a fixed platform.

Types_of_offshore_oil_and_gas_structures

Various types of oil platforms and drilling rigs used in the Gulf of Mexico. By Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, NOAA. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10407950

Why is that? Governing law: Example 1, Example 2. But these laws exist in the context of Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution, which grants Federal courts jurisdiction in cases of admiralty and maritime law.* Since Rig #7 is a floating vessel, any worker is considered to be an able-bodied seaman and subject to the laws’ protections, including the right to sue for damages in Federal court.

A worker on Platform #3 is, well, just a worker, and workers have workers’ comp, which pays your lost time & medical bills, but no exemplary damages, loss of consortium, pain & suffering, etc.

This is outrageous! Absurd! The Framers of our Constitution could not have possibly predicted offshore oil development, semi-submersible drilling rigs and compliant towers in 1,000+ ft of water. Their original intent was certainly to cover sailors on merchant vessels, but not drilling roughnecks!

Yeah, try convincing the plaintiffs’ bar of Texas and Louisiana of that. Their bread-and-butter cases are admiralty and maritime cases, many of them on drilling rigs. I’m sure each and every one of them is a die-hard originalist, at least when it comes to Article III, Section 2.

A Constitution is an agreement among parties who have agreed to be bound by it. A Constitution would not be a Constitution if its words were malleable. There is a reason why it contains a process for amendment, instead of suggesting that the parties just make it up as they go along. There is also a reason why the amendment process is a difficult one.

The Framers were among the most gifted and sophisticated men of their day. Some were inventors in their own right; their Constitution provided for patents “to promote the progress of science and useful arts…” Of course they expected innovation and technological progress.

The argument that the Framers intended to limit our Constitutional protections to limits known in their time is b***shit on stilts. I’ve not heard anyone advance that argument in the realm of electronic communication, say, or  abortion women’s health.

*  Legal experts, please be kind. I am not a lawyer, but this is my layman’s understanding of the legal and Constitutional issues.

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