Marine Ventures, Inc. v. Breaux
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW. The Court finds that the McCorpen defense has been established by Marine Ventures. Mr. Breaux forfeited his right to claim maintenance and cure. Signed by Judge Carl Barbier. (gec)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
MARINE VENTURES, INC
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
This matter came on for a bench trial on August 11, 2017 on the severed issue of
maintenance and cure. The parties stipulated that for the purposes of this trial, the sole issue to be
decided was whether James Breaux forfeited his right to maintenance and cure under the McCorpen
Where a ship owner requires a seaman to submit to a pre-hiring medical examination or
interview, and the seaman intentionally misrepresents or conceals material medical facts, the
disclosure of which is plainly desired, then the seaman is not entitled to an award of maintenance
and cure. McCorpen v. Central Gulf Steamship Corp., 396 F.2d 547, 559 (5th Cir. 1968). The
seaman has a duty, under McCorpen, to disclose past injuries if asked. Guillory v. Northbank
Towing Corp., 92–14, 1993 WL 721991, at *2 (W.D. La. June 25, 1993). In order to prevail on its
McCorpen defense, an employer must show that
(1) the claimant intentionally misrepresented or concealed medical
(2) the non-disclosed facts were material to the employer’s decision to
hire the claimant; and
(3) a connection exists between the withheld information and the injury
complained of in the lawsuit.
Brown v. Parker Drilling Offshore Corp., 410 F.3d 166, 171 (5th Cir. 2005).
The “intentional concealment” prong of McCorpen is essentially an objective inquiry and
does not require a finding of subjective intent. Failure to disclose medical information in an
interview or questionnaire that is obviously designed to elicit such information therefore satisfies
the “intentional concealment” requirement. Id. at 174-75.
Mr. Breaux failed to disclose his prior medical condition when he denied any previous
problems with his back, neck or shoulders in response to specific questions on his employment
application and also when he filled out the medical questionnaire in connection with his preemployment physical examination. His testimony that he did not remember his prior injuries or
medical problems is simply not credible. Neither is his refusal to even acknowledge that the
markings on the questionnaires were in his own handwriting. The first element of the McCorpen
defense is established.
The second element of the McCorpen defense, materiality, was also clearly established at
trial. The fact that an employer asks a specific question regarding past medical history on an
employment application, and that question is rationally related to the applicant’s physical ability
to perform his job duties, renders the information material for purposes of this analysis. Id.
Mr. Breaux applied for the position of deckhand, obviously a heavy manual job. The questions
about whether he had experienced previous back or neck problems were clearly related to his
ability to perform this manual labor. By denying any previous problems, Mr. Breaux denied his
employer the opportunity to further investigate and assess his physical condition in order to decide
whether to hire him.
The third prong of McCorpen is causality, that is, whether there is a connection between
the withheld information and the injury which the claimant sustained.
Under the causal
relationship prong, the present injury need not be identical to a previous injury. All that is required
is a causal link between the pre-existing condition or injury and the injury that occurred during the
claimant’s employment. The test applied is not a causation analysis in the ordinary sense, and the
employer need only prove that the old injury and the new injury affected the same body part.
Wilkerson v. Loupe Construction and Consulting Co., Inc., 11–676, 2011 WL 4947604, at *4 (E.D.
La. Oct. 18, 2011) (citing Brown, 410 F.3d at 176). Mr. Breaux failed to disclose several prior
medical problems, including his lower back, neck and shoulder. His current injury to his lower
back is clearly causally related or connected to the same part of his body. The third and final
element of McCorpen is met.
For these reasons, the Court finds that the McCorpen defense has been established by
Marine Ventures. Mr. Breaux forfeited his right to claim maintenance and cure.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 16th day of August, 2017.
CARL J. BARBIER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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