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David B. Anderson
Gordon T. Carey, Jr.
Gordon T. Carey, Jr.
Douglas R. Williams
Douglas R. Williams
Nicholas J. Neidzwski
Nicholas J. Neidzwski
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David B. Anderson, Gordon T. Carey, Douglas R. Williams, and Nicholas J. Neidzwski are proud members of the Maritime Law Association of the United States.

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Punitive Damages in Maintenance & Cure

Maintenance and cure claims may seem like the commercial seaman’s goldmine, but in reality recovery under maintenance and cure is a burden that the plaintiff must carry.

Recovery for injury at sea falls under the Jones Act. All maritime employees are required to maintain Jones Act Insurance. Many individuals fail to realize that an injured seaman may be entitled to punitive damages as a result of an employer’s failure to fulfill a maintenance and cure claim.

Punitive damages are damages designed to punish a defendant for wrongdoing and they generally exceed compensatory damages. According to the U.S. Supreme Court in Atlantic Sounding Co, Inc., v. Townsend, 557 U.S. 404 (2009), a plaintiff does not have to rely on the Jones Act to make a claim for punitive damages.

Attorney Defending Maintenance and Cure Claims in Seattle, WA

Our maritime lawyers have offices in Bellingham and Seattle in Washington, to service clients throughout the area. We file personal injury claims under the Jones Act and other general maritime law claims in Portland, OR.

Our attorneys represent both the plaintiffs and the defendants of maritime injury claims. In the past we have represented longshoremen as land-based non-seamen, who bring claims for personal injury under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA).

Contact our office to learn more about the kinds of services our firm offers, including motions to reinstate and motions to initiate maintenance and cure benefits.

Call 1 (800) 262-8529 now to schedule a confidential consultation with our personal injury and maritime lawyers in Portland, OR, Bellingham, WA, or Seattle, WA.

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Proving Maintenance and Cure

In any maintenance and cure claim, the plaintiff has the burden of proof. Thus, the plaintiff must show the existence of each element by a preponderance of the evidence.

Another phrase for “preponderance of the evidence” is more likely than not. Therefore, to succeed on a maintenance and cure claim, the plaintiff must show that the following elements “more likely than not” existed:

When a defendant’s failure to provide for maintenance and cure worsens the plaintiff’s injury, then the plaintiff may also recovery damages resulting from such injuries, including pain and suffering and additional medical expenses.

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Proving the Defendant Failed to Provide Maintenance and Cure

It is not enough to simply show that the plaintiff was owed maintenance and cure, a plaintiff must also show that the defendant, willfully and maliciously failed to pay the plaintiff’s claim. The plaintiff must show the that the defendant wantonly, willfully, and recklessly did any of the following:

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Useful Definitions for Maintenance and Cure Claims

In order to understand whether an employer intentionally neglected to provide maintenance and cure benefits, it is important to understand what constitutes maintenance benefits and what constitutes cure benefits.

Maintenance – benefits include providing for the reasonable costs of room and board of the injured seaman while he or she is recovering from the injury at home. Maintenance can include expenses like: rent or mortgage, property taxes, homeowners or renter’s insurance, utilities, and food.

Cure – benefits refer to the reasonable and necessary medical expenses, along with the cost of transportation for getting to an from his or her reasonable and necessary medical treatment.

Atlantic Sounding Co. Inc. v. Townsend

The question presented to the Court was whether an injured seaman could recover punitive damages for his or her employer’s willful failure to pay maintenance and cure.

The Court, in an opinion delivered by Justice Thomas, held that a plaintiff could seek to recover punitive damages for his or hers employer’s willful failure to pay maintenance and cure.

Thus, a plaintiff could seek punitive damages when his or her employer willfully fails to pay maintenance and cure claims as required by the Jones Act. The Court’s rationale was, since punitive damages have been an accepted remedy under general maritime law for so long, and nothing in the Jones Act prevented this, such damages for willful and wanton disregard for the maintenance and cure obligation should remain available as a matter of general maritime law.  Atlantic Sounding Co. Inc., v. Townsend, 557 U.S. 404 (2009).

Additional Resources

Atlantic Sounding Co. v. Townsend, 557 U.S. 404 (2009) – Visit, for a short synopsis of the case, including the decision poll, and the lower court information, the plaintiffs and the defendants, and the Justices sitting on the case.  Oyez is a free law project by Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, dedicated to making the U.S. Supreme Court accessible.

Maintenance and Cure; Elements and Burden of Proof --  Visit the official website of the United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit for more information about proving maintenance and cure claims and what party has the burden of proof.

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Attorneys in Washington State for Maintenance and Cure Punitive Damages

The admiralty and maritime lawyers at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski represent injured employees of commercial maritime companies. When a seaman is injured in service of a vessel, the law requires the employer to provide maintenance and cure benefits.

Our firm has offices in Seattle and Bellingham in Washington ready to fight for your right to receive benefits. If you or someone you know was injured in service of a vessel, contact Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski.

Call 1 (800) 262-8529 now to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. 

This article was last updated on Sunday, September 17, 2017. 

This website was designed for martime lawyers and was created solely for general information purposes. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal or medical advice. Only a maritime attorney or physician licensed to practice in your state can provide you with official guidance based on the specific details surrounding your situation.

Additionally, contacting Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski via e-mail or phone does not create an attorney / client relationship. This relationship is only formed after a formal agreement has been made by both parties.