Jones Act Case Study: Steve Kuithe v Gulf Caribe Maritime, Inc.
Case Name: Steve Kuithe v Gulf Caribe Maritime, Inc.
Date of Judgment: 6th April 2009
Court: U.S.D.C. – S.D. Alabama
Judges: District Judge Steele
Citation: 2009 WL 928589 (S.D.Ala.)
Background: Plaintiff, Steve Kuithe (“Seaman”) sued defendant, Gulf Caribe Maritime (“Employer”) for a knee injury that occurred while seaman was performing his duties. Seaman stated that his left knee “popped” when he fell from a ladder.
Prior to being hired, seaman underwent a physician’s examination. He failed to disclose to the doctor that he had experienced pain in his left knee and had surgery to correct it. Seaman also neglected to mention that he needed ACL surgery, but had declined to have it done.
After reporting the injury, seaman received maintenance and cure from his employer. Initial surgery was provided through seaman’s health plan. Seaman believed he needed full-knee surgery as a result of his injury. His physician agreed that seaman needed a full-knee replacement. Thus, seaman requested employer pay for the surgery.
Employer moved the Court to enter an order compelling seaman to submit to an independent medical examination. Upon finding the results, employer would decide whether to pay for the full-knee surgery.
Issue: Whether the employer is obligated to provide full-knee surgery as a maintenance and cure obligation, given the seaman’s concealment of his left knee condition.
The Court held that an independent medical examination would be required for seaman to continue his suit against his employer. The employer’s request was fair, as they had agreed to pay lodging and other costs for seaman to obtain this exam.
The seaman’s failure to disclose his prior knee condition provided a strong defense to the employer. They will likely be excused from paying for seaman’s full-knee surgery, will pay a reduced amount, or nothing at all.
The exact outcome will be dependent on the independent medical examination results.
A seaman’s failure to disclose prior conditions or injuries will require the seaman to get an independent medical exam. Prior to the seaman being hired, the doctor must know of any previous problems. If they are not aware of any, it becomes very tough to prove what caused the injury.
The doctor’s opinion will decide whether the seaman receives full maintenance and cure, a reduced amount, or nothing at all.
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