When a Jones Act seaman becomes ill and injured while in the service of his/her ship, the shipowner must pay him maintenance and cure whether the shipowner was at fault or whether the ship was unseaworthy. Guevara v. Maritime Overseas Corp., 59 F.3d 1496, 1499 (5th Cir. 1995) (emphasis added). When there are ambiguities or doubts, they are resolved in favor of the seaman. Vaughan v. Atkinson, 369 U.S. 527, 532, 82 S.Ct. 997 (1962). Moreover, Plaintiff is entitled to maintenance and cure until the date of maximum possible cure, when no further treatment will improve the condition. Johnson v. Marlin Drilling Co., 893 F.2d 77, 79 (5th Cir. 1990). This presents a strategic advantage to Jones Act seaman in cases where there is questionable or no liability on the part of the employer. Moreover, a seaman is entitled to be paid maintenance until a doctor provides an opinion that he/she has reach maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement means the seaman has reached a point in his/her care where he/she will get no better and only palliative care will be necessary if any at all.
Maintenance covers an injured seaman’s food and lodging while cure pays for his/her medical expenses. Guevara, 59 F.3d at 1499. The burden of producing evidence of expenses is feather light, and a court may award reasonable expenses, even if the precise amount of actual expenses is not conclusively proved.Hall v. Noble Drilling (U.S.), Inc., 242 F.3d 582, 58 (5th Cir. 2001); See alsoYelverton v. Mobil Laboratories, Inc., 782 F.2d 555, 558 (5th Cir. 1986) (noting that a seaman=s Aown testimony as to reasonable cost of room and board in the community where he is living is sufficient to support an award.). The Fifth Circuit has upheld maintenance rates of $30.50 and $31.50 per day. See Hall v. Noble Drilling (U.S.) Inc., 242 F.3d 582, 591 (5th Cir. 2001); see also Nichols v. Weeks Marine, Inc., 513 F.Supp.2d 627, 639 (E.D. La. 2007) (finding that a maintenance rate of $30.00 per day is reasonable and appropriate in this case); Atlantic Sounding Co. v. Curette, 2006 WL 1560793, at *3 (E.D. La. May 16, 2006) (finding maintenance rate of $30.00 per day reasonable); Lodrigue v. Delta Towing, L.L.C., 2003 WL 22999425, at *11 (E.D. La. Dec. 19, 2003) (finding $31.00 to be reasonable approximation). We have been successful in the past in having courts award a greater rate than the ones cited by Nichols and Atlantic Sounding. In moving to compel maintenance, provide an affidavit from your client detailing his/her actual living expenses and attach supporting bills. The aggregate amount divided by 30 days yields a daily maintenance rate. You can include rent/mortgage, vehicle, gas, electricity, cable, phone, and groceries attributable to the seaman himself. Many times, this daily rate will far exceed the $30-$31 cited in case law.
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