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Crewmembers cannot recover punitive damages

February 26, 2020
Legal News

The Supreme Court held that crewmembers cannot recover punitive damages for claims of unseaworthiness, resolving uncertainty in this area of the law and resolving a split among the federal courts. Relying on Miles v. Apex Marine Corp., 498 U.S. 19 (1990), and Atlantic Sounding Co. v. Townsend, 557 U.S. 404 (2009), the Court explained that it must look to legislative enactments in the field, like the Jones Act, when exercising its authority over maritime and admiralty cases. Punitive damages are unavailable under the Jones Act, and the rule was extended to unseaworthiness claims to maintain uniformity with regard to these actions. Unlike maintenance and cure claims, there was no longstanding history of allowing punitive damages for unseaworthiness claims. While not addressed by the Court, this opinion could be used to further undermine punitive damages for other claims governed by general maritime law. To read the full Supreme Court opinion, click here.

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