My guess is that this is a case of an ambulance chasing lawyer working on a contingency fee....and now he's been reduced to grasping at straws in an attempt to salvage what investment he may have in the case. Fortunately, he found a judge that didn't know squat about offshore sailing and was willing to fall for the "employment" argument.
The District Court ultimately granted the Motion to Remand filed by Raley & Raley on behalf of the Zekoll Estate, holding that "...the Plaintiff here has put forth facts that could, if true, demonstrate that Zekoll was hired as a crew member for the Rule 62, meaning that she was acting as a sea-based worker at the time of the accident. The plaintiff avers that (1) Ross paid Zekoll compensation in the form of airfare and meals, (2) interviewed her for the crew position, and (3) gave her orders as a crewmember while the ship was underway...Given these allegations, the court concludes that the defendant has not met his burden to show that the plaintiff has fraudulently pled a Jones Act claim. These facts, if true, could lead a rational trier of fact to conclude that Zekoll's connection to the Rule 62 was substantial both in its duration and nature. Therefore, this case should be remanded to state court as a non-removable Jones Act claim."
A close read of the above suggests he may have won a motion, but he's still a long way from winning the case.
I've offered crew airfares and meals on several occasions and my insurance company doesn't consider that "paid crew". When I made a contribution to a crew member's sailing charity to enable him to join me for a three month passage, the insurance company did consider that he was paid crew and I had to pay a $300 supplement to the base policy to cover potential liabilities arising from his presence on the boat.
This is a tragedy of the first order. The lessons have been learned and nothing is going to bring Laura home from the sea. IMHO, it's long past time to let it begin to fade from our memories.