A landmark case from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana finds maritime companies are not entitled to repayment of maintenance and cure wrongly provided to injured seaman even if the crewmember lied on his employment application. Maintenance is a living stipend that employers must pay seamen injured while in service and subject to the call of the ship up until the time the medical condition plateaus. Cure is medical treatment for the injury.
A favorite tactic of maritime employers and ship owners when faced with a seaman’s lawsuit is to file a counterclaim seeking to recoup wrongly paid maintenance and cure benefits. Often times the defending company will scour the employment application and pre-employment medical disclosure forms then compare these statements with the injured seaman’s medical records for anything that may, in its view, be inconsistent. The company will then file a counterclaim seeking reimbursement based upon such inconsistency. This is ploy simply designed to scare the crew member into accepting a lower settlement than the true value of the case.