James R. Maddux v. United States of America, et al

[B]Case Name: [/B][I]James R. Maddux v United States of America, et al.
[/I][B]Date Decided: [/B]September 10, 2009
[B]Court: [/B]U.S.D.C. Southern District of Ohio
[B]Judge:[/B] Judge Barrett
[B]Citation: [/B]2009 WL 2982969[B]Background:
[/B]Plaintiff, James R. Maddux (“Maddux”) was employed by Defendants as a seaman on a vessel docked in Guam. While returning from shore leave, Maddux fell from a stairway and into a safety net that was defective and improperly rigged causing Maddux to fall fifteen feet to the deck below. Maddux suffered a complete spinal cord injury and has been rendered a paraplegic.

Maddux alleged that defendants are vicariously liable for his injuries under the Jones Act, the Public Vessels Act, the Suits in Admiralty Act, and general maritime law of the United States. Or, in the alternative, under the Longshore and Harbors Workers’ Compensation Act(“LHWCA”). Maddux alleged negligence, unseaworthiness against all defendants and requests, among others, punitive damages.

Defendants have moved to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) arguing that the complaint does not state a claim for which relief can be granted.

[/B]Did this Court dismiss Maddux’s motion under defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted?

This Court was required to construe the complaint in light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true. A complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations but merely the factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on that assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true.

Maddux made a claim for punitive damages based on the defendants’ willful violation of its duty to maintain a safe and seaworthy vessel and planned on showing that Defendants’ acts or failures to act recklessly increased the likelihood that Maddux would be injured by a dangerous and unseaworthy condition on the vessel.

Moreover, Maddux seeks to recover punitive damages as a result of Defendants’ alleged bad faith conduct by their [I]willful and callous [/I]failure to provide appropriate maintenance and cure benefits to Maddux and Defendants’ failure to conduct a [I]prompt and adequate [/I]investigation of Maddux’s claims for maintenance and cure benefits.

While these motions were pending, the US Supreme Court held that a seaman may bring a claim for punitive damages for the willful and wanton disregard for the maintenance and cure obligation.

Accordingly this Court denied defendants’ motions for summary judgment and to dismiss plaintiffs claim because, as it turns out, the Supreme Court will allow punitive damages for Maddux’s claims.

The Defendants moved to dismiss and for summary judgment prior to the decision by the Supreme Court decision allowing seamen to recover punitive damages for employer’s* willful and wanton disregard of the maintenance and cure obligations. [/B]


[B]Steve Gordon [/B]