IN BARGE ACCIDENT RESULTING IN THE DEATH TO ONE CREWMEMBER AND INJURING SEVERAL OTHERS, LOUISIANA DISTRICT COURT DISMISSED ALL CLAIMS FOR PUNITIVE DAMAGES UNDER THE JONES ACT BASED ON ATLANTIC SOUNDING V. TOWNSEND.
Haleigh Janee McBRIDE, et al. v. ESTIS WELL SERVICE, LLC.
United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, 2012 WL 1833938
May 16, 2012.
Seamen and estate of a seaman brought action against employer, seeking to recover for injuries sustained when derrick and rig fell over. Employer moved to dismiss claims for punitive damages.
In several consolidated Jones Act claims arising out of an incident onboard a barge, where one crew member died, and three more claim that they were injured. All of the plaintiffs sought to recover under the Jones Act for Defendant’s alleged negligence, and all of them sought to recover under the general maritime law for the alleged unseaworthiness of the vessel. All of the plaintiffs also asserted claims for punitive and/or exemplary damages due to Defendant’s alleged gross, willful, wanton, and/or reckless conduct that allegedly constituted a callous disregard of, or showed indifference to, the safety of the crew members. Defendant indicated that it is willing to stipulate to liability for the incident but states that it cannot do so while the claims for punitive damages exist. Defendant did not seek to dismiss any cause of action, nor did it seek to dismiss any claims for punitive damage arising out of the failure to pay maintenance and cure. The motion was limited solely to the availability, or not, of a punitive damages remedy under the Jones Act and/or general maritime law. At issue is whether the remedy of punitive damages is legally cognizable under the Jones Act and/or general maritime law in the context of a wrongful death/survival action, or a personal injury action, for seamen who were killed or injured in Louisiana territorial waters after the decision of Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc. v. Townsend, 557 U.S. 404, 129 S.Ct. 2561, 174 L.Ed.2d 382 (2009). After a lengthy analysis, the district court concluded that nothing in Townsend makes punitive damages available to the Jones Act plaintiffs or abrogates the jurisprudential authority holding that punitive damages are not available to these plaintiffs.
Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss was granted and the Plaintiffs’ claims for punitive damages under the Jones Act were dismissed.