Articles Posted in Rights of Seamen

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Last week, Nigel Stacey and Joe Stacey, partners at Stacey and Jacobsen, PLLC, were honored to serve as judges for the esteemed 31st Annual Judge John R. Brown Admiralty Moot Court Competition.

This annual competition hosted 32 law school teams from across the country to deliver arguments on issues pertaining to maritime law. The event honors Judge John R. Brown, renowned for his service as a distinguished admiralty judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Other volunteers in this competition have included federal judges, prominent members of the maritime bar, presidents and past presidents of the Maritime Law Association of the United States, as well as admiralty professors.

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CG-Kodiak-Air-Station-300x188Watchstanders at the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Command Center in Juneau received a call on Monday that a crew member aboard the F/V RESURRECTION was suffering from what appeared to be a heart attack. A medevac was requested request at about 9 p.m.

The 49-foot longline fishing vessel was located approximately 65 miles east of Kodiak when the call was made. An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew launched from Air Station Kodiak, and a rescue swimmer was lowered with a rescue basket, then hoisted the 38-year-old man to the helicopter. He was transported to Air Station Kodiak and placed in the care of EMS personnel, who transported him to Kodiak Providence Hospital.

“We sent a health technician to supplement the in-flight care, along with our standard aircrew members,” said Lt. Cmdr. Orion Bloom, search and rescue mission coordinator for the case. “When we know that a survivor is experiencing symptoms that might benefit from a level of care beyond what our rescue swimmers are trained to provide, we do our best to provide that higher level of care. We wish this man a swift recovery.”

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Rscue-300x199The ALASKA JURIS, a fishing vessel owned by Fishing Company Of Alaska (FCA), started taking on water on July 26, 2016 while fishing off the Aleutian chain of islands. The captain sent out a mayday. The crew donned their survival suits, got into life rafts, and abandoned ship. No other vessel was in sight. After several hours floating in the open sea near Adak, good Samaritan vessels arrived at the scene to rescue the crew.

This is the same fishing company that owned and operated the ALASKA RANGER, a factory trawler that sank in March 2008. Five crew died in that sinking.

We understand FCA and its insurance company are now offering $20,000 to survivors of the ALASKA JURIS to settle any and all claims they may have as a result of the sinking ordeal. The offer comes with a written explanation. FCA and its insurance company compare the sinking of the RANGER to the sinking of the JURIS as justification as to why they are only offering $20,000 to settle.

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Injured seamen are entitled to maintenance and cure benefits while they are recovering from their injuries. Maintenance should continue until the seaman has reached a point of maximum medical improvement or to the point where he or she is able to return to their normal job assignment. Maintenance payments are not wage replacement payments; maintenance only provides an allowance for the reasonable housing, food, and utilities of the injured seaman. Maintenance does not provide for many of the expenses seaman may face such as car payments and support of one’s spouse and children.

In many cases prior to reaching maximum medical improvement, the seaman is cleared for light duty by their treating doctor. If a seaman seeks a light duty shore side job during recovery from their shipboard injuries, they are still entitled to ongoing maintenance benefits. The wages earned in this light duty job do not offset or replace maintenance benefits. Maritime legal cases support the proposition that an injured fisherman should receive light duty wages in addition to their maintenance payment.

The right to ongoing maintenance while on shoreside light duty is slightly different when the seaman returns to light duty aboard the same ship or fishing vessel on which they were injured. If the employer is providing meals and lodging as part of the light duty job aboard ship, then they would be fulfilling their obligation to pay maintenance as they are paying for the injured worker’s room and food. However, as in most fisherman contracts, if the cost of meals or housing is being deducted from the fisherman’s pay, then the fisherman on light duty will still be entitled to at least a portion, if not all, of their maintenance benefits, in addition to light duty wages.

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