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Myers v. Aleutian Endeavors LLC

United States District Court, D. Alaska

May 22, 2018

THOMAS MYERS, Plaintiff,
v.
ALEUTIAN ENDEAVORS, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          H. Russel Holland United States District Judge

         Motion for Cure for Life

         Plaintiff moves for a declaration that he is entitled to cure for life.[1] This motion is opposed.[2] Oral argument was not requested and is not deemed necessary.

         Facts

         Plaintiff is Thomas Myers. Defendants are Aleutian Endeavors, LLC and Thomas Robinson.

         Plaintiff alleges that in June of 2015, he was working as a “deckhand/cook/engineer” on the M/V EXITO when he “fell while running across the deck.”[3] Plaintiff also alleges that he was injured in a separate incident when he was “struck in the back by a loose deck board.”[4] As a result of these two incidents, plaintiff alleges that he “sustain[ed] severe, painful and disabling injuries to his low back [and] left hip and knee[.]”[5] Plaintiff contends that the injuries he suffered will “likely require medical attention for the remainder of his natural life.”[6]

         Plaintiff commenced this action on November 20, 2017. In his complaint, plaintiff seeks, among other things, maintenance and cure.

         Plaintiff now moves for a declaration that he is entitled to cure for life for his permanent injuries.

         Discussion

         “Under maritime law, . . . seamen [are] entitled to ‘maintenance and cure' from the owners of their ships.” Jones v. Reagan, 748 F.2d 1331, 1334 (9th Cir. 1984). “‘Maintenance' is a living allowance that permits the seaman to obtain housing and food while he recovers[.]” Id. “[C]ure' is payment for medical care[.]” Id. “Irrespective of fault, the vessel owner is obliged to pay . . . maintenance and cure.” Berg v. Fourth Shipmor Assocs., 82 F.3d 307, 309 (9th Cir. 1996).

         In Farrell v. United States, 336 U.S. 511, 512 (1949), Farrell “was grievously injured” while in service of a merchant vessel. Farrell's injuries were permanent and as a result, he argued that he was “entitled to maintenance as long as he is disabled, which in this case is for life.” Id. at 513. The Court rejected Farrell's argument and held that a vessel owner's obligation to pay maintenance ended when the seaman reaches maximum cure or recovery. Id. at 517-19. “The accepted legal standard holds that maximum cure is achieved when it appears probable that further treatment will result in no betterment of the seaman's condition.” Pelotto v. L & N Towing Co., 604 F.2d 396, 400 (5th Cir. 1979).

         Farrell did not argue that he was entitled to cure for life because at that time, seamen were entitled to free medical care at Marine Hospitals, which the federal government had begun operating in 1798. Jones, 748 F.2d at 1334. But, “[i]n 1981, Congress enacted the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, . . . a comprehensive appropriations bill that adjusted the eligibility requirements and amounts budgeted for a large number of federal programs. Among its other provisions, the Budget Act ordered the closure” of the Marine Hospitals. Id.

         Plaintiff argues that with the closure of the Marine Hospitals, the maintenance and cure doctrine reverted back to its status between the signing of the Constitution in 1787 and the establishment of the Marine Hospital system in 1798. And, plaintiff contends that between 1787 and 1798, seamen were entitled to lifetime cure from shipowners. Plaintiff cites to Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc. v. Townsend, 557 U.S. 404 (2009), in support of this argument. The issue in Atlantic Sounding was “whether an ...


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