Dixon v. Matson Navigation Company, Inc.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT re 9 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by JUDGE LESLIE E. KOBAYASHI on 04/11/2018. Defendant Matson Navigation Company, Inc.' ;s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Class Action Complaint, filed on October 23, 2017 is HEREBY GRANTED, and Count II of Plaintiff's Class Action Complaint under Rule 9(h), filed July 28, 2017, is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. (eps, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF HAWAII
ALPHONSE DIXON, and others
MATSON NAVIGATION COMPANY,
CIVIL 17-00368 LEK-KJM
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO
DISMISS PLAINTIFF’S CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT
Before the Court is Defendant Matson Navigation
Company, Inc.’s (“Defendant”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Class
Action Complaint (“Motion”), filed on October 23, 2017.
Plaintiff Alphonse Dixon (“Plaintiff”) filed his
memorandum in opposition on October 25, 2017, and Defendant filed
its reply on January 12, 2018.
[Dkt. nos. 14, 20.]
came on for hearing on January 29, 2018.
Defendant’s Motion is
hereby granted for the reasons set forth below.
This putative class action arises under admiralty law.
Plaintiff alleges he has “suffered illness or injury in the
service of Defendant’s vessel(s) on high seas voyages wherefore
unearned wages were payable,” and proceeds to assert two claims.
[Class Action Complaint under Rule 9(h) (“Complaint”), filed
7/28/17 (dkt. no. 1), at ¶ 3.]
First, Plaintiff claims Defendant
wrongfully calculated the amount of unearned wages owed “in
breach of its general maritime law obligations.”
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges Defendant failed to include in
his unearned wages the amount of overtime wages, which he would
have earned, had he not been prevented from working by his
illness or injury (“Count I”).
[Id. at ¶¶ 3-4.]
Plaintiff alleges Defendant improperly determined the duration of
its obligation to pay him unearned wages (“Count II”).
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that, because he has
dependents, he was “entitled to unearned wages until [his]
sickness or incapacity was declared to be of a permanent
character, per the Shipowners’ Liability Convention.”1
In the instant Motion, Defendant seeks dismissal of
Defendant argues shipowners are only obliged to pay
unearned wages until the end of the voyage.
Under the maritime law, unearned wages is a component
of an injured seaman’s claim for maintenance and cure.
The Shipowners’ Liability Convention of 1936
(“Convention”), 54 Stat. 1693, was “made effective for the United
States on October 29, 1939.” Vella v. Ford Motor Co., 421 U.S.
1, 5 (1975) (citing Farrell v. United States, 336 U.S. 511, 517,
69 S. Ct. 707, 710 (1949)). The Convention is also available at
1939 WL 39333.
Barnes v. Sea Hawaii Rafting, LLC, 983 F. Supp. 2d 1208, 1212 (D.
This district court has stated:
When a seaman is injured in the service of
his vessel, the shipowner has an obligation to pay
maintenance (room and board), cure (medical
expenses), and unearned wages. Vaughan v.
Atkinson, 369 U.S. 527, 531–33, 82 S. Ct. 997, 8
L. Ed. 2d 88 (1962); Lipscomb v. Foss Maritime
Co., 83 F.3d 1106, 1109 (9th Cir. 1996). The
entitlement to maintenance and cure continues
until the seaman reaches “maximum cure” — a
recovery as complete as the injury allows.
Permanente S.S. Corp. v. Martinez, 369 F.2d 297,
298–99 (9th Cir. 1966) (stating that the
obligation to furnish maintenance and cure
“continues until the seaman achieves maximum
recovery; that is, until the seaman is well or his
condition is found to be incurable.”); see also
Berg v. Fourth Shipmor Assocs., 82 F.3d 307, 309
(9th Cir. 1996) (same). When a seaman is injured
in the service of a vessel, the employer must pay
maintenance and cure even where the employer is
not at fault. Aguilar v. Standard Oil Co. of
N.J., 318 U.S. 724, 730, 63 S. Ct. 930, 87 L. Ed.
1107 (1943); Crooks v. United States, 459 F.2d
631, 632 (9th Cir. 1972).
Plaintiff argues the duration of Defendant’s obligation
to pay him unearned wages is controlled by Article 5 of the
Convention, which states in relevant part:
Where the sickness or injury results in incapacity
for work the shipowner shall be liable–
(a) to pay full wages as long as the sick or
injured person remains on board;
(b) if the sick or injured person has
dependants, to pay wages in whole or in part
as prescribed by national laws or regulations
from the time when he is landed until he has
been cured or the sickness or incapacity has
been declared of a permanent character.
Convention, Art. 5(1), 1939 WL 39333, at *2.
The Convention is not an independent source of
authority apart from judicial decisions stating the general
See Warren v. United States, 340 U.S. 523, 526-27
The United States Supreme Court interprets the
Convention as merely declarative of judicial statements of the
general maritime law.
Through the phrase “‘national laws or
regulations,’” the Convention “includes the rules of court
The Convention’s “aim . . . was not to change
materially American standards but to equalize operating costs by
raising the standards of member nations to the American level.”
Id. at 527 (footnote omitted).
The “maritime law had developed
through the centuries in judicial decisions[, and the Convention
did not] reject that body of law and start anew with a complete
In Vella, the Supreme Court held a shipowners’
obligation to provide “cure,” i.e. the medical care component of
maintenance and cure, extends until the injured seaman reaches
maximum medical improvement.
421 U.S. at 3-4.
The Supreme Court
acknowledged its holding “track[ed]” the Convention’s statement
regarding the duration of cure, and clarified that the
Convention’s text was not a source of legal authority, but merely
acted to “buttress[ its] conclusion.”
See id. at 5 (reaffirming
that the Convention did not “‘change materially American
standards’” (quoting Warren v. United States, 340 U.S. 523, 527,
71 S. Ct. 432, 435, 95 L. Ed. 503 (1951))).
The Supreme Court
determined the duration of a shipowner’s obligation to pay the
“cure” component of maintenance and cure by looking to
precedential judicial opinions and the common law reasoning
See id. at 3-4.
To determine the duration of a shipowner’s obligation
to pay the unearned wages component of maintenance and cure, this
Court looks to precedential judicial opinions and the common law
In the Ninth Circuit, a shipowner is
“obliged to pay the seaman’s medical expenses until he reaches
maximum recovery, or ‘cure,’” but is only obligated to “pay
unearned wages for a limited period.”
Berg, 82 F.3d at 309.
duration of that limited period is determined by looking at the
parties’ employment contract.
Id. at 310.
In Berg, the Ninth
Circuit allowed for the possibility that a seaman’s employment
contract could cause unearned wages to be owed for a fixed time
period, rather than for the duration of the ship’s voyage.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the
defendant because the plaintiff failed to “support his
interpretation of the parties’ agreement.”
Id. at 312.
Plaintiff has made no reference to the parties’
Plaintiff relies solely on the Convention
as authority for his alleged entitlement to relief.
Convention was not enacted to “‘change materially American
standards,’” Count II is premised on a legal theory contrary to
See Vella, 421 U.S. at 5 (quoting Warren
v. United States, 340 U.S. 523, 527, 71 S. Ct. 432, 435, 95 L.
Ed. 503 (1951)).
Count II therefore “fail[s] to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted,” and must be dismissed.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).
The dismissal must be with prejudice
because it is clear that any amendment would be futile.
Sonoma Cty. Ass’n of Retired Emps. v. Sonoma Cty., 708 F.3d 1109,
1118 (9th Cir. 2013) (“As a general rule, dismissal without leave
to amend is improper unless it is clear, upon de novo review,
that the complaint could not be saved by any amendment.”
(brackets, citation and internal quotation marks omitted)).
On the basis of the foregoing, Defendant Matson
Navigation Company, Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Class
Action Complaint, filed on October 23, 2017 is HEREBY GRANTED,
and Count II of Plaintiff’s Class Action Complaint under
Rule 9(h), filed July 28, 2017, is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED AT HONOLULU, HAWAII, April 11, 2018.
/s/ Leslie E. Kobayashi
Leslie E. Kobayashi
United States District Judge
ALPHONSE DIXON VS. MATSON NAVIGATION COMPANY INC.; CIVIL 17-00368
LEK-KJM; ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF’S
CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT
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