Ship owners are obligated to care for sick crewmembers. In one particularly shocking case, a jury awarded a yacht chef $1.2 million, 300 times his original claim, because of the yacht owner’s fragrant violation of their maintenance and cure duties under maritime law.
Maintenance concerns the seaman’s daily living expenses. Their medical costs are referred to as cure. Employers must pay maintenance and cure until the seaman is fit for duty or medical care will no longer help their condition.
The plaintiff was a chef on a yacht going on a Caribbean voyage. At sea, he began to suffer nausea and dizziness and told the vessel’s captain that he needed to see a physician.
The chef went to a doctor when the yacht docked in Varadero, Cuba on April 27, 2017. The crewmember was diagnosed with an umbilical hernia and instructed to go to a hospital in Havana, three hours away, for emergency surgery.
The crewmember relayed this diagnosis to the captain, but the captain would not release him until he paid $1,000 for alleged internet abuse. At the hospital, he was informed that he would have to pay a $1,000 cash guarantee, which he no longer had, before surgery. The ship and insurer never contacted that hospital.
He subsequently underwent surgery at a public hospital because of his Venezuelan citizenship. But conditions were substandard, and he had to undergo corrective surgery because the hospital did not have medical mesh needed for the first surgery.
After recovery, the crewmember made several unsuccessful attempts to contact the captain. The captain ultimately gave him a $1,000 loan which he said was his money even though it belonged to ships’ expenses. The ship left Cuba without him despite his request to return.
After he returned to this country, the insurers rejected his request for maintenance and cure. The captain also asked for repayment of the fraudulent loan and another $870 for internet abuses.
The crewmen filed his lawsuit seeking $4,000 and charging that the captain and owner did not meet their maintenance and cure duties. The court raised this to $1.2 million because of the unnecessarily cruel treatment he underwent.
Seaman have substantial rights. An attorney can help assure that compensation is paid when these are violated.