The maritime lawyers of Brais Law were successful in defeating a tug and barge company’s attempt to dismiss an injured seaman’s claim for punitive damages and attorney’s fees for the willful delay of providing medical care. Maritime law requires a shipowner to provide a seaman injured within the course and scope of employment medical care until a qualified doctor declares the seaman at a point where medical care can no longer improve the condition. The Supreme Court recently in the case of Atlantic Sounding Co. Inc. v. Townsend found a shipowner can be liable for punitive damages if it willfully, arbitrarily or capriciously denies or delays in providing medical care to an injured seaman. Brais Law argued its client’s case fell inside the perimeters of Townsend thereby allowing the pursuit of punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees.
Brais Law’s client worked for a tug boat and barge company as a deckhand and unlicensed engineer. On May 27, 2010, he suffered an injury while working on a tug boat performing duties in connection with a salvage operation (“First Incident”). This incident caused two cervical herniated discs. On June 1, 2010, the employers tendered a physician’s assistant to care for the spinal injury. The physician’s assistant gave the following orders: “No strenuous activities including line handling and heavy lifting.” On June 4, 2010, the physician’s assistant ordered an MRI and added the following additional orders: “No strenuous activities including line handling and heavy lifting, pulling or pushing.” The seaman reported back to work that day.