LaCava v. Norm Bloom & Son LLC
If a seaman is ill or injured, he may be entitled to punitive damages, if his employer does not promptly furnish food, lodging and medical treatment. Allegedly, the plaintiff, Paul LaCava, was on board the ship known as M/V Sheppard in February 2009 when a 500-pound oyster dredge struck him. LaCava sued the owner and operator, pursuant to the Jones Act, 46 United States Code §30104. The defendant moved for partial summary judgment on LaCava's request for punitive damages. Punitive damages can be awarded to a seaman if his employer engaged in "willful and wanton disregard of the [general maritime law] maintenance and cure obligation," pursuant to Atlantic Sounding Co. v. Townsend, a 2009 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. "Maintenance" refers to the seaman's right to food and lodging, if the seaman is ill or injured, and "cure" refers to his nursing and medical care. If maintenance and cure are not furnished promptly, and the employer lacks a reasonable defense, the seaman can obtain punitive damages, provided that he documents his claims. The defendant's representative, Norm Bloom claimed that he was unaware that LaCava was injured until LaCava filed a claim for workers' compensation. There were allegations that LaCava did not promptly seek medical treatment after the boating accident and that Bloom did not investigate promptly or provide maintenance and cure. Experts apparently disagree about whether LaCava has reached maximum medical improvement. Bloom did not prove there were no genuine issues of material fact with respect to punitive damages, and the court denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment.