How does a Pre-Existing Illness Affect a Maintenance and Cure Claim? | DENENA | POINTS

The Houston maritime law attorneys at Denena & Points note that under general maritime law, Maintenance and Cure is a remedy for seamen who have become ill or injured while in the service of a vessel. Cure covers the seaman’s medical expenses and Maintenance covers his or her basic living expenses.

 An appeals court just re-examined a district court’s decision regarding Maintenance and Cure in a case involving a claim by a seaman who was diagnosed with cancer after leaving the service of Bouchard Transportation, Inc. The seaman had the cancer, though undiagnosed, while serving the Bouchard vessel.

 The dispute between the seaman and Bouchard centered on whether the seaman was entitled to Maintenance and Cure benefits for the cancer diagnosed after his service but which clearly existed during his time in service to the vessel.

 The district court had denied the seaman’s claim. Our Houston maritime law attorneys report that the appeals court upheld the seaman’s claim for Maintenance and Cure benefits.

 Here’s why: the appeals court said:

  • Maintenance and Cure is a “far more expansive remedy” than state workers’ compensation benefits.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court explicitly requires judges to construe Maintenance and Cure broadly and limiting coverage for illnesses after service runs counter to that guidance.
  • Ship owners may be liable for Maintenance and Cure for: standard medical conditions, prior illnesses that recur while in service to a vessel, injuries occurring ashore, illnesses or injuries due to a seaman’s negligence so long as that doesn’t represent clear misconduct, or asymptomatic illnesses or injuries that manifest themselves after employment ends.

The court had held that a seaman was not entitled to Maintenance and Cure for an injury or illness that manifested itself after employment but only if he could NOT show a causal ink between the injury or illness and his service to the vessel. In the case at issue, it was undisputed that the seaman’s lymphoma was already present while he worked in service to the Bouchard vessel; the appeals court held that this established the causal link necessary to entitle the seaman to Maintenance and Cure benefits.

Contact the Established Houston Maritime Law Attorneys at Denena & Points if You have Questions about your Illness or Injury in relation to a Claim for Maintenance and Cure Benefits

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