Supreme Court Rules Punitive Damages Available in Maintenance and Cure Cases
In Atlantic Sounding vs. Townsend (2009 U.S. Lexis 4732), a sharply divided Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 5-4 decision on June 25, 2009, that an injured seaman may recover punitive damages for his employer’s willful failure to pay maintenance and cure. Since Miles vs. Apex Marine Corp., 498 U.S.19 (1990), U.S. Courts of Appeal had split on this question. The 1st, 5th and 11th Circuits had awarded punitive damages as a remedy for failure to pay maintenance and cure. The 2nd, 3rd and 9th Circuits routinely awarded pecuniary damages for the failure to pay maintenance and cure.