Satterfield v. Harvey Gulf International Marine
ORDER AND REASONS denying 10 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, as detailed in document. Signed by Judge Jane Triche Milazzo. (ecm)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
JON DAVID SATTERFIELD
HARVEY GULF INTERNATIONAL MARINE
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court is Defendant’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
(Doc. 10). For the following reasons, the Motion is DENIED.
Plaintiff Jon Satterfield alleges that on April 13, 2015, while working as
a relief captain aboard Defendant Harvey Gulf International Marine’s vessel
the M/V HARVEY HEAT, he began to experience flu-like symptoms that were
in fact manifestations of congestive heart failure.
He alleges that these
symptoms were reported to his superior on the vessel and to Defendant’s
onshore personnel. Despite his deteriorating health, he alleges that Defendant
failed to relieve him of his duties or provide any medical assistance while
aboard the vessel.
He states that Defendant promised to have medical
personnel available upon the vessel’s April 16, 2015 arrival in Venice, LA;
however, no such personnel was available at that time. Accordingly, Plaintiff,
despite his increasing disorientation, drove himself to Oschner Hospital in
Belle Chasse, LA.
He alleges that this delay in treatment worsened his
condition and complicated his recovery. Plaintiff seeks, inter alia, punitive
damages for failure to timely provide cure. Defendant has filed a Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment on this issue, arguing that punitive damages are
Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if
any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”1 A genuine issue
of fact exists only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.”2
In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment,
the Court views facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draws
all reasonable inferences in his favor.3 “If the moving party meets the initial
burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden
shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence or designate specific facts
showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.”4 Summary judgment is
appropriate if the non-movant “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish
the existence of an element essential to that party’s case.”5 “In response to a
properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) (2012).
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
3 Coleman v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 113 F.3d 528 (5th Cir. 1997).
4 Engstrom v. First Nat’l Bank of Eagle Lake, 47 F.3d 1459, 1462 (5th Cir. 1995).
5 Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).
identify specific evidence in the record and articulate the manner in which that
evidence supports that party’s claim, and such evidence must be sufficient to
sustain a finding in favor of the non-movant on all issues as to which the nonmovant would bear the burden of proof at trial.”6 “We do not . . . in the absence
of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the
Additionally, “[t]he mere argued existence of a factual
dispute will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion.”8
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Defendant moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s punitive damages
claim, arguing that such a claim is foreclosed by the fact that it has timely paid
maintenance and cure since it was made aware of Plaintiff’s hospitalization.
Plaintiff opposes, arguing that, payment of maintenance and cure
notwithstanding, the failure to timely provide adequate medical care aboard
the vessel and upon its arrival in Venice amounts to a failure to timely supply
He argues that this failure was willful and wanton, making punitive
The core issue underpinning this motion is whether Plaintiff’s claim for
failure to timely supply medical care is brought under principles of
maintenance and cure—making punitive damages available—or under
principles of Jones Act negligence or the general maritime law principle of
unseaworthiness—rendering punitive damages unavailable. In arguing that
punitive damages are unavailable, Defendant relies on the recent Fifth Circuit
John v. Deep E. Tex. Reg. Narcotics Trafficking Task Force, 379 F.3d 293, 301 (5th
Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted).
7 Badon v. R J R Nabisco, Inc., 224 F.3d 382, 394 (5th Cir. 2000) (quoting Little v.
Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994)).
8 Boudreaux v. Banctec, Inc., 366 F. Supp. 2d 425, 430 (E.D. La. 2005).
case of McBride v. Estis Well Service, L.L.C.9 There, the court held that
punitive damages are available in neither unseaworthiness nor Jones Act
negligence cases.10 This case did not, however, upend the rule announced by
the Supreme Court in Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc. v. Townsend, where the
Court held that “[b]ecause punitive damages have long been an accepted
remedy under general maritime law . . . such damages for the willful and
wanton disregard of the maintenance and cure obligation should remain
available in the appropriate case as a matter of general maritime law.” 11
Accordingly, McBride is dispositive to the matter pending before the Court only
if the claims presented are Jones Act negligence claims or unseaworthiness
An injured seaman has three potential remedies: a Jones Act negligence
claim, and unseaworthiness claim, and a claim for maintenance and cure. A
seaman has the right “to choose among overlapping statutory and common law
remedies for injuries sustained by the denial of maintenance and cure.”12 “A
claim for maintenance and cure concerns the vessel owner’s obligation to
provide food, lodging, and medical services to a seaman injured while serving
the ship.”13 As Townsend demonstrates, punitive damages are available in a
maintenance and cure action in certain circumstances. Defendant avers that
maintenance and cure is merely a financial obligation, and that the duty to
provide medical care aboard the vessel is only actionable as a Jones Act
negligence claim or an unseaworthiness claim. As a result, they argue that
summary judgment is warranted on Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages.
768 F.3d 382 (2014).
768 F.3d 382 (5th Cir. 2014).
11 557 U.S. 404 (2009).
12 Atl. Sounding Co. v. Townsend, 557 U.S. 404, 243 (2009).
13 Id. at 408–409 (quoting Lewis v. Lewis & Clark Marine, Inc., 531 U.S. 438, 441
This narrow view of the maintenance and cure obligation is contradicted by
clear precedent. In Gaspard v. Taylor Diving & Salvage Co., the Fifth Circuit
The duty to provide maintenance and cure embraces not only
the obligation to provide a subsistence allowance and to pay for
medical expenses actually incurred by the seaman, but to take all
reasonable steps to ensure that the seaman, when he is injured or
becomes ill, receives proper care and treatment. If an unreasonable
failure to provide maintenance and cure aggravates the seaman’s
condition, the shipowner is liable not only for the increased
medical expenses and maintenance that may become necessary,
but also for the full tort damages that result . . . . Thus . . . a
seaman whose injuries are aggravated by a negligent failure to
provide appropriate care on board ship has overlapping causes of
action. He can recover full tort damages under either a count for
negligence under the Jones Act or a count for breach of the maritime
duty of maintenance and cure.14
To be sure, as the cases identified by Defendant demonstrate, a failure to
provide prompt medical care can support a Jones Act negligence claim or a
claim for unseaworthiness under general maritime law. The cases cited by
Defendant do not, however, indicate that these are the exclusive remedies for
such a failure. Indeed, the Townsend Court emphasized that “remedies for
negligence, unseaworthiness, and maintenance and cure have different origins
and may on occasion call for application of slightly different principles and
The Court further noted “that a seaman’s action for
maintenance and cure is ‘independent’ and ‘cumulative’ from other claims such
Though maintenance and cure is often spoken of as a
financial obligation, the duty of cure has broader historical roots as “the vessel
Gaspard v. Taylor Diving & Salvage Co., 649 F.2d 372, 375 (5th Cir. 1981) (citations
omitted) (emphasis added). See also Russell v. U.S. Dist. Court for Cent. Dist. of California,
182 F.3d 927 (9th Cir. 1999).
15 557 U.S. at 423 (citing Fitzgerald v. United States Lines Co., 374 U.S. 16 (1963)).
owner’s obligation to provide food, lodging, and medical services to a seaman
injured while serving the ship.”17 This duty encompasses the duty to provide
medical care to a seaman while aboard the vessel. A breach of this a duty, as
alleged here by Plaintiff, gives rise to an action for breach of the maritime duty
of maintenance and cure. Should Plaintiff be able to carry his burden of
showing that this failure was willful and wanton, punitive damages may be
available.18 Accordingly, this Court cannot say that punitive damages are
unavailable as a matter of law.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant’s Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment (Doc. 10) is DENIED.
New Orleans, Louisiana this 5th day of October, 2016.
JANE TRICHE MILAZZO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lewis v. Lewis & Clark Marine, Inc., 531 U.S. 438, 441 (2001).
557 U.S. at 424.
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