Prior to trial, the seaman can file a motion to reinstate maintenance and cure requesting that the court order the employer shipowner to resume paying cure for injuries because the injuries had not yet reached the point of maximum cure. The motion is often supported by a declaration of the seaman’s treating physician that the injuries would benefit from additional treatment.
In addition to bringing a motion to reinstate maintenance and cure, the seaman can also seek a preliminary injunction under CR 65(a) or move for an expedited evidentiary hearing under CR 42(b).
If your employer shipowner stopped paying maintenance and cure to you as an injured seaman, you can bring a claim to continue maintenance and cure under general maritime law. Contact the experienced admiralty and maritime lawyers in Bellingham and Seattle, Washington, to discuss your case and how to protect your rights. Our maritime lawyers also represent clients in Oregon, California, and Alaska.
We can help you reinstate your maintenance and cure benefits while your personal injury claim under the Jones Act or other legal issues are litigated in the courts.
If your employer has stopped paying maintenance and cure benefits, then contact an experienced maritime lawyer with offices in Bellingham and Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco, California.
We can help you show that you have not reached “maximum medical recovery” or “maximum medical improvement.” Our maritime lawyers will help you decide the best way to proceed so that your maintenance and cure benefits can be reinstated.
Contact an attorney at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski to discuss your case. Call 1 (800) 262-8529.
As a preliminary matter, the motion to reinstate maintenance and cure can be brought in state court in Washington. The state court in Washington can address the claims because, although federal judicial power “extend[s] ... to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction,” the state courts have concurrent jurisdiction to adjudicate this case under the “saving to suitors” clause. U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 1; see 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1).
The district courts shall have original jurisdiction, exclusive of the courts of the States, of any civil case of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction, saving to suitors in all cases all other remedies to which they are otherwise entitled. 28 U.S.C. § 1333(1). “The ‘saving to suitors' clause gives plaintiffs the right to sue on maritime actions in state court.” Endicott v. Icicle Seafoods, Inc., 167 Wash.2d 873, 878 (Wash. 2010).
Under general maritime law, a shipowner has a duty to provide maintenance and cure to a seaman who becomes ill or is injured while in the service of the ship.
Maintenance and cure cases alternatively refer to the concept of “maximum cure” as “maximum medical recovery” or “maximum medical improvement.”
The shipowner's duty to pay maintenance and cure continues until the seaman reaches the point of maximum medical recovery. 1 THOMAS J. SCHOENBAUM, ADMIRALTY AND MARITIME LAW § 6–28, at 393 (4th ed. 2004).
"Maximum medical cure" is reached when the seaman recovers from the injury, the condition permanently stabilizes or cannot be improved further. Maintenance and cure is an “ancient doctrine.” The duty first appeared in the medieval sea codes and is "undoubtedly of earlier origin.” See SCHOENBAUM, supra, § 6–28, at 376.
A seaman's right to maintenance and cure was first recognized in the United States by Justice Story. See Harden v. Gordon, 11 F.Cas. 480 (C.C.D.Me.1823). Justice Story articulated the underlying policy of maintenance and cure as follows:
Seamen are by the peculiarity of their lives liable to sudden sickness from change of climate, exposure to perils, and exhausting labour. They are generally poor and friendless, and acquire habits of gross indulgence, carelessness, and improvidence.
If some provision be not made for them in sickness at the expense of the ship, they must often in foreign ports suffer the accumulated evils of disease, and poverty, and sometimes perish from the want of suitable nourishment.
Their common earnings in many instances are wholly inadequate to provide for the expenses of sickness; and if liable to be so applied, the great motives for good behaviour might be ordinarily taken away by pledging their future as well as past wages for the redemption of the debt ...
On the other hand, if these expenses are a charge upon the ship, the interest of the owner will be immediately connected with that of the seamen. The master will watch over their health with vigilance and fidelity. He will take the best methods, as well to prevent diseases, as to ensure a speedy recovery from them.
He will never be tempted to abandon the sick to their forlorn fate; but his duty, combining with the interest of his owner, will lead him to succor their distress, and shed a cheering kindness over the anxious hours of suffering and despondency. Beyond this, is the great public policy of preserving this important class of citizens for the commercial service and maritime defence of the nation.
Harden, 11 F.Cas. at 483.
The United States Supreme Court relied on Justice Story's early opinions when it definitively established a seaman's right to maintenance and cure in The Osceola, 189 U.S. 158, 175, 23 S.Ct. 483, 47 L.Ed. 760 (1903) (superseded on other grounds by statute, Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104).
In Taylor, the Court referenced this “classic passage” written by Justice Story—quoted above—to lay out three primary justifications for maintenance and cure:
Dean v. Fishing Co. of Alaska, 300 P.3d 815, 820, 177 Wash.2d 399, 407 (Wash. 2013) (quoting Calmar S. S. Corp. v. Taylor, 303 U.S. 525, 528, 58 S.Ct. 651 (1938)).
In later cases, the Court emphasized that a shipowner's duty to pay maintenance and cure is broad and should be liberally interpreted for the benefit and protection of seamen who are the admiralty courts' wards. Vaughan v. Atkinson, 369 U.S. 527, 531–32, 82 S.Ct. 997, 8 L.Ed.2d 88 (1962) (quoting Taylor, 303 U.S. at 529, 58 S.Ct. 651).
After a shipowner has terminated payment, a seaman can bring a motion to reinstate maintenance and cure. The shipowner may have terminated payment because it believed that the seaman reached maximum cure.
The decision to terminate maintenance and cure must be unequivocal. If there is conflicting medical opinions provided by the shipowner and the injured seaman, then the payments should continue while the case is pending. The goal in these types of cases is to get the court to grant the seaman's motion to reinstate maintenance and cure. If the doctors are of differing opinions, then the seaman should be entitled to continue to receive maintenance and cure until the matter is ultimately resolved at trial.
If the shipowner has cutoff the seamen's maintenance and cure based on their findings that the seamen reached maximum cure, then the seaman can file a motion reasserting his right to maintenance and cure. After filing the motion, the trial court should order the shipowner to reinstate such payments unless the shipowner can provide unequivocal evidence that the seaman has reached maximum cure.
In many cases in which the shipowner wishes to terminate paying maintenance and cure, the shipowner can move for an expedited trial under CR 42(b). At an expedited trial, the shipowner has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the seaman reached maximum cure.
The shipowner’s defenses to payment of maintenance and cure may involve a dispute about whether the seaman forfeited his right to maintenance and cure by willfully concealing a preexisting medical condition or because the doctrine of laches barred the seaman's claim.
The shipowner's liability for maintenance and cure is among ‘the most pervasive’ of all and is not to be defeated by restrictive distinctions nor ‘narrowly confined.’” Vaughan, 369 U.S. at 532, 82 S.Ct. 997 (quoting Aguilar v. Standard Oil Co., 318 U.S. 724, 735, 63 S.Ct. 930, 936 (1943)).
In order to ensure that injured seamen are protected, the courts provide that when there are ambiguities or doubts related to maintenance and cure, those doubts are resolved in favor of the seaman. In other words, the seaman's right to maintenance and cure is so inclusive as to be relatively simple. It can be understood and administered without technical considerations and has few exceptions.
If your maintenance and cure benefits were terminated prematurely, then contact an experienced attorney for maintenance and cure benefits in the State of Washington. The attorneys at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski file motions to reinstate maintenance and cure benefits.
Our experienced maritime attorneys have offices in Bellingham and Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco, California. We also take cases throughout Alaska.
This article was last updated on Tuesday, July 10, 2018.