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The Ninth Circuit reaffirms its prior holding that punitive damages are available for Jones Act unseaworthiness claims.

April 1, 2018
Batterton v. Dutra Group, 9th Cir. No. 15-56775, Jan. 23, 2018

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that punitive damages are an available remedy under the general maritime law for claims of unseaworthiness in a Jones Act seaman’s personal injury suit, notwithstanding the United States Supreme Court’s holding in Miles v. Apex, 498 U.S. 19 (1990) and the Fifth Circuit’s holding in McBride v. Estis Well Service, L.L.C., 768 F.3d 382 (5th Cir. 2014). In so holding, the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed its prior holding in Evich v. Morris, 819 F.2d 256 (9th Cir. 1987). Disagreeing with the Fifth Circuit, the Ninth Circuit panel concluded that Miles did not implicitly overrule the holding of Evich. Rather, the panel found that punitive damages are neither pecuniary losses nor compensatory damages but, rather, serve the purposes of punishment and deterrence. The panel also focused on the Supreme Court’s more recent decision in Atlantic Sounding Co. v. Townsend, 557 U.S. 404 (2009), which held that Miles did not limit the availability of punitive damages in maintenance and cure cases. 

 

Case Law Alerts, 2nd Quarter, April 2018

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