Opinion of the Court by MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, announced by MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN.
This is a suit in admiralty brought by a seaman to recover (a) maintenance and cure and (b) damages for
Libellant served on respondents'
The hospital records show a strong probability of active tuberculosis. The Master furnished libellant a certificate to enter the hospital on his discharge, March 2, 1957. Though libellant forwarded to the owner's agent an abstract of his clinical record at the hospital in 1957, the only investigation conducted by them was an interrogation of the Master and Chief Engineer, who stated that the libellant had never complained of any illness during his four months' service. The owner made no effort to make any further investigation of libellant's claim for maintenance and cure, and according to the findings did not bother even to admit or deny the validity
The District Court first allowed maintenance at the rate of $8 a day from June 6, 1957, to February 18, 1959. Since libellant during that period had worked as a taxi driver, the District Court ordered that his earnings be deducted from the amount owed by respondents. Subject to that credit, the order also provided that maintenance at $8 per day be continued until such time as the libellant reached the maximum state of recovery. The District Court allowed in addition 6% interest for each week's maintenance unpaid. Subsequently the District Court extended the maintenance to cover the period from March 7, 1957, to March 17, 1957, and from February 18, 1959, through August 25, 1959, these later awards being without interest.
The Court of Appeals denied counsel fees as damages, relying on the conventional rule that in suits for breach of contract the promisee is not allowed that item in computing the damages payable by the promisor. And the Court of Appeals, following Wilson v. United States, 229 F.2d 277, and Perez v. Suwanee S. S. Co., 239 F.2d 180, from the Second Circuit, held that a seaman has the duty to mitigate damages and that since "the purpose of maintenance and cure is to make the seaman whole," "he will get something more than he is entitled to" unless his
We disagree with the lower courts on both points.
Equity is no stranger in admiralty; admiralty courts are, indeed, authorized to grant equitable relief. See Swift & Co. v. Compania Caribe, 339 U.S. 684, 691-692, where we said, "We find no restriction upon admiralty by chancery so unrelenting as to bar the grant of any equitable relief even when that relief is subsidiary to issues wholly within admiralty jurisdiction."
Counsel fees have been awarded in equity actions, as where Negroes were required to bring suit against a labor union to prevent discrimination. Rolax v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co., 186 F.2d 473, 481. As we stated in Sprague v. Ticonic Bank, 307 U.S. 161, 164, allowance of counsel fees and other expenses entailed by litigation, but not included in the ordinary taxable costs regulated by statute, is "part of the historic equity jurisdiction of the federal courts." We do not have here that case. Nor do we have the usual problem of what constitutes "costs" in the conventional sense. Cf. The Baltimore, 8 Wall. 377. Our question concerns damages. Counsel fees were allowed in The Apollon, 9 Wheat. 362, 379, an admiralty suit where one party was put to expense in recovering demurrage of a vessel wrongfully seized. While failure to give maintenance and cure may give rise to a claim for damages for the suffering and for the physical handicap which follows (The Iroquois, 194 U.S. 240), the recovery may also include "necessary expenses." Cortes v. Baltimore Insular Line, 287 U.S. 367, 371.
In the instant case respondents were callous in their attitude, making no investigation of libellant's claim and
Maintenance and cure is designed to provide a seaman with food and lodging when he becomes sick or injured in the ship's service; and it extends during the period when he is incapacitated to do a seaman's work and continues until he reaches maximum medical recovery. The policy underlying the duty was summarized in Calmar S. S. Corp. v. Taylor, 303 U.S. 525, 528:
Admiralty courts have been liberal in interpreting this duty "for the benefit and protection of seamen who are
Maintenance and cure differs from rights normally classified as contractual. As Mr. Justice Cardozo said in Cortes v. Baltimore Insular Line, supra, 371, the duty to provide maintenance and cure
In Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 46, we held that a seaman who while an outpatient was living on his parents' ranch without cost to himself was not entitled to maintenance payments. There maintenance and cure was wholly provided by others. Here the libellant was on his own for nearly two years and required to work in order to survive. It would be a sorry day for seamen if ship-owners, knowing of the claim for maintenance and cure, could disregard it, force the disabled seaman to work, and then evade part or all of their legal obligation by having it reduced by the amount of the sick man's earnings. This would be a dreadful weapon in the hands of unconscionable employers and a plain inducement, as Chief Judge Sobeloff said below (291 F. 2d, at 820), to use the withholding of maintenance and cure as a means of forcing sick seamen to go to work when they should be resting, and to make the seamen themselves pay in whole or in part the amounts owing as maintenance and cure. This result is at war with the liberal attitude that heretofore has obtained and with admiralty's tender regard for seamen. We think the view of the Third Circuit (see Yates v. Dann, 223 F.2d 64, 67) is preferable to that of
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER took no part in the decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE WHITE took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE STEWART, whom MR. JUSTICE HARLAN joins, dissenting.
I agree with the Court that whether earnings received by a disabled seaman prior to his maximum medical recovery are to be credited against the shipowner's obligation for maintenance is an issue which should not be resolved by a mechanical application of the rules of contract law relating to mitigation of damages. But I cannot agree that in this case the petitioner's earnings should not have been set off against the maintenance owed to him. Nor can I agree with the Court's conclusion that the petitioner is entitled as a matter of law to damages in the amount of the counsel fees expended in his suit for maintenance and cure.
The duty to provide maintenance and cure is in no real sense contractual, and a suit for failure to provide maintenance or cure can hardly be equated, therefore, with an action for breach of contract. "The duty . . . is one annexed by law to a relation, and annexed as an inseparable incident without heed to any expression of the will of the contracting parties." Cortes v. Baltimore Insular Line, 287 U.S. 367, 372. Moreover, if the seaman's accountability for earnings were to be determined solely by reference to damage mitigation principles of contract law, the breach of the shipowner's duty to pay maintenance
The issue should be decided, rather, with reference to the scope of the duty which the admiralty law imposes. The obligation of a shipowner, irrespective of fault, to provide maintenance and cure to a seaman injured or taken ill while in the ship's service has lost much of its original significance in this era of relaxed unseaworthiness and negligence concepts. But the obligation is of ancient origin,
But "[t]he duty does not extend beyond the seaman's need." Calmar S. S. Corp. v. Taylor, supra, at 531. It ends absolutely when a point of maximum medical recovery has been reached. Id., at 530; Farrell v. United States, 336 U.S. 511. And when the seaman has not incurred expense, the shipowner has no obligation to make payment.
Since the limited purpose of maintenance is to make the seaman whole, it would logically follow that there should be no such duty for periods when the seaman, though not yet at the point of maximum cure, either does in fact obtain equivalently gainful employment or is able to do so.
The need for prompt payment and the desirability of avoiding any rule which might force a seaman back to work to the detriment of his recovery might well require that no compulsion to seek employment be placed on a convalescing seaman, and that a setoff be allowed only with respect to actual, as opposed to potential, earnings. But this question is not presented by the record before us. Similarly, it may well be that a seaman should not be held to account for actual earnings to a shipowner whose dereliction in making payments compels the seaman, as
The second issue presented in this case is whether the petitioner should have been awarded damages in the amount of the counsel fees incurred in bringing his action for maintenance and cure. The Court held in Cortes v. Baltimore Insular Line, supra, at 371, that "[i]f the failure to give maintenance or cure has caused or aggravated an illness, the seaman has his right of action for the injury thus done to him, the recovery in such circumstances including not only necessary expenses, but also compensation for the hurt." But neither the Cortes decision, nor any other that I have been able to find, furnishes a basis for holding as a matter of law that a seaman
However, if the shipowner's refusal to pay maintenance stemmed from a wanton and intentional disregard of the legal rights of the seaman, the latter would be entitled to exemplary damages in accord with traditional concepts of the law of damages. McCormick, Damages, § 79. While the amount so awarded would be in the discretion of the fact finder, and would not necessarily be measured by the amount of counsel fees, indirect compensation for such expenditures might thus be made. See Day v. Woodworth, 13 How. 363, 371. On this issue I would accordingly remand the case to the District Court, so that the circumstances which motivated the respondents' failure to make maintenance payments could be fully canvassed.
"If any of the mariners hired by the master of any vessel, go out of the ship without his leave, and get themselves drunk, and thereby there happens contempt to their master, debates, or fighting and quarrelling among themselves, whereby some happen to be wounded: in this case the master shall not be obliged to get them cured, or in any thing to provide for them, but may turn them and their accomplices out of the ship; and if they make words of it, they are bound to pay the master besides: but if by the master's orders and commands any of the ship's company be in the service of the ship, and thereby happen to be wounded or otherwise hurt, in that case they shall be cured and provided for at the costs and charges of the said ship."
Justice Story, in holding that maintenance and cure was a charge upon the ship, said concerning its history:
"The same principle is recognised in the ancient laws of Wisbuy (Laws of Wisbuy, art. 19), and in those of Oleron, which have been held in peculiar respect by England, and have been in some measure incorporated into her maritime jurisprudence. The Consolato del Mare does not speak particularly on this point; but from the provisions of this venerable collection of maritime usages in cases nearly allied, there is every reason to infer, that a similar rule then prevailed in the Mediterranean. Consolato del Mare, cc. 124, 125; Boucher, Consulat de la Mer, cc. 127, 128. Molloy evidently adopts it as a general doctrine of maritime law (Molloy, b. 2, c. 3, § 5, p. 243); and two elementary writers of most distinguished reputation have quoted it from the old ordinances without the slightest intimation, that it was not perfectly consonant with the received law and usage of England. Abb. Shipp. p. 2, c. 4, § 14; 2 Brown, Adm. 182-184. There is perhaps upon this subject a greater extent and uniformity of maritime authority, than can probably be found in support of most of those principles of commercial law, which have been so successfully engrafted into our jurisprudence within the last century." Harden v. Gordon, 11 Fed. Cas. 480, 483.
In three cases setoff of actual earnings has been denied. In Yates v. Dann, 124 F.Supp. 125, the district judge found that the seaman had been "in need" throughout the whole period and should not be "penalized" because he returned to work. The case was reversed on other grounds, 223 F.2d 64, the court sustaining the ruling of the District Court on this point with the statement that "the circumstance that appellee was forced by financial necessity to return to his regular employment is not legally a bar to his recovery." 223 F. 2d, at 67. See also Hanson v. Reiss Steamship Co., 184 F.Supp. 545, 550 ("Liability for maintenance and cure does not necessarily cease when the injured person obtains gainful occupation where such employment is compelled or induced by economic necessity."); Meirino v. Gulf Oil Corp., 170 F.Supp. 515, 517 ("The fact that libellant returned to work because of economic necessity while he was in need of medical care and attention does not deprive him of his right to maintenance and cure.").