KING, Circuit Judge:
We reheard this case en banc to reconsider our 1984 decision in Holmes v. J. Ray McDermott & Co., 734 F.2d 1110 (5th Cir. 1984), that an award of punitive damages under the general maritime law may be made when an employer willfully and callously refuses to pay maintenance or cure to an injured seaman. Developments in the law since 1984 have caused us to reevaluate the basis for such a punitive award and to conclude that Holmes should be overruled.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
The facts and procedural history of this case are set forth in the panel opinion, Guevara v. Maritime Overseas Corp., 34 F.3d 1279, 1290 (5th Cir.), reh'g en banc granted, 34 F.3d 1279 (5th Cir.1994), but we summarize them here for the reader's convenience.
Domingo Guevara was injured on May 29, 1990 while serving as a crewmember on the vessel Overseas Philadelphia. The vessel was owned and operated by Guevara's employer, Maritime Overseas Corporation ("Maritime"). The crew was preparing the ship to sail from Freeport, Texas, and Guevara was helping to secure the gangway. Because of the gangway's size, the ship's crane was used to lift it, and the task was
Guevara was standing on a catwalk on the vessel pursuant to the orders of his superior, the vessel's bosun, who was operating the crane. As the gangway was lifted, it swayed in Guevara's direction, and the bosun ordered Guevara to move away from where he was standing. When Guevara tried to move, however, he momentarily caught the tread of his boot in the catwalk grating. After freeing himself, Guevara jumped from the catwalk to the deck below to avoid being hit by the gangway.
Unfortunately, Guevara injured his knee while falling to the deck. He promptly reported his injury to the third mate and he was given assistance. Despite his injury, Guevara continued to work on the vessel for a period of four months, apparently to qualify for union benefits. Upon the vessel's return to port, Guevara saw a doctor who diagnosed him as having a torn medial meniscus and a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Although Guevara was initially reluctant to undergo surgery, his knee was operated on in February of 1991. Beginning on February 5, 1991, Guevara made a number of formal demands on Maritime for maintenance and cure. Maritime, however, made no payment until June 24, 1991 at the earliest. Despite subsequent demands, Guevara did not receive his second and final payment until December 29, 1991.
Guevara brought a negligence claim under the Jones Act and an unseaworthiness claim under the general maritime law against Maritime. Guevara also sought punitive damages for Maritime's failure to pay maintenance on a timely basis. The jury returned a verdict for Guevara, finding Maritime negligent, the Overseas Philadelphia unseaworthy, and Guevara not negligent. Further, the jury awarded Guevara $131,000 in compensatory damages for his injury and $60,000 in punitive damages for Maritime's arbitrary and capricious failure to pay maintenance.
In this opinion, we only address the question of whether punitive damages are still available in maintenance and cure cases. As a consequence, the portions of the panel opinion addressing the jury's finding of negligence (Part IIA), see Guevara, 34 F.3d at 1281-82, and the jury's finding of Maritime's arbitrary and capricious behavior (Part IIB), see id. at 1282-83, are reinstated.
II. ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION
A. The Doctrine of Maintenance and Cure
When a seaman becomes ill or injured while in the service of his ship, the shipowner must pay him maintenance and cure regardless of whether the shipowner was at fault or whether the ship was unseaworthy. See Morales v. Garijak, Inc., 829 F.2d 1355, 1358 (5th Cir.1987). "Maintenance" is the right of a seaman to food and lodging if he falls ill or becomes injured while in the service of the ship. "Cure" is the right to necessary medical services. This duty to pay maintenance and cure is of ancient vintage, and its origin is customarily traced back to the medieval sea codes. See The Osceola, 189 U.S. 158, 169, 23 S.Ct. 483, 484-85, 47 L.Ed. 760 (1903); see generally Grant Gilmore & Charles L. Black, Jr., The Law of Admiralty § 6-6, at 281 (2d ed. 1975); Thomas J. Schoenbaum, Admiralty and Maritime Law § 6-28, at 348 (2d ed. 1994). Only "seamen" can assert the right to maintenance and cure, but the legal test for seaman status in maintenance and cure actions is the same as the inquiry for standing under the Jones Act. See, e.g., Hall v. Diamond M Co., 732 F.2d 1246, 1248 (5th Cir. 1984) ("The standard for determining seaman status for the purposes of maintenance and cure is the same as that established for determining status under the Jones Act.").
Gilmore & Black, supra, § 6-6, at 281 (quoting Harden v. Gordon, 11 F.Cas. 480 (C.C.D.Me.1823) (Case No. 6,047)) (footnote omitted). This obligation to provide maintenance and cure "embraces not only the obligation to pay a subsistence allowance and to reimburse the seaman for medical expenses he incurs; the employer must take all reasonable steps to insure that the seaman who is injured or ill receives proper care and treatment." Schoenbaum, supra, § 6-28, at 348; see also Morales, 829 F.2d at 1358.
B. Legal Developments and their Effect on Holmes v. J. Ray McDermott
Until 1984, we had never upheld an award of punitive damages for the willful nonpayment of maintenance and cure. In our 1984 Holmes opinion, however, we did uphold such a punitive award, and we supported the award with the following analysis:
734 F.2d at 1118 (citations omitted). Thus, at the time of our Holmes decision, we relied upon three cases — the Supreme Court's Vaughan, this court's Merry Shipping, and the First Circuit's Pocahontas — and there was not a great deal of additional guidance to be found. Judge Garwood's well-considered concurrence to the panel opinion, see Guevara, 34 F.3d at 1284-90 (Garwood, J., concurring), together with significant developments in the law of admiralty and elsewhere, have caused us to rethink our position. We begin, therefore, by reexamining the precedents that form the foundation of our Holmes opinion, and in the end, we conclude that Holmes's approval of punitive damages is no longer justifiable in cases of willful nonpayment of maintenance and cure.
1. Vaughan v. Atkinson
In Holmes, we cited Vaughan v. Atkinson, 369 U.S. 527, 82 S.Ct. 997, 8 L.Ed.2d 88 (1962), only for the proposition that a willful and arbitrary failure to pay maintenance and cure gave rise to a claim for attorney's fees as well as general damages. See 734 F.2d at 1118. We did
Vaughan, a brief opinion by Justice Douglas, is a difficult decision — not because of its holding, but because of the rationale for its holding. It is clear that the majority in Vaughan upheld an award of attorney's fees to a seaman where his employer had deliberately
On the one hand, the adjectives used by the majority to describe the employer's behavior — "callous," "recalcitran[t]," "willful and persistent" — imply that the award of attorney's fees was meant to be a punitive sanction. See id. at 530-31, 82 S.Ct. at 999-1000. On the other hand, the majority cited Cortes v. Baltimore Insular Line, 287 U.S. 367, 371, 53 S.Ct. 173, 174, 77 L.Ed. 368 (1932), for the proposition that an employer's failure to pay maintenance and cure may entitle a seaman to the recovery of "necessary expenses." The Court further stated that the seaman "was forced to hire a lawyer to get what was plainly owed him," and the Court noted that "[i]t is difficult to imagine a clearer case of damages suffered for failure to pay maintenance than this one." Vaughan, 369 U.S. at 531, 82 S.Ct. at 1000-1001. This terminology clearly suggests that the attorney's fees were meant as a compensatory award for out-of-pocket expenses, as punitive damages are not "owed" as "expenses" and are not designed to remedy "damages suffered." Indeed, the language of the dissent implies that the majority's rationale for the attorney's fees award was compensatory, while
Id. at 540, 82 S.Ct. at 1004 (Stewart, J., dissenting) (citation omitted).
386 U.S. at 718, 87 S.Ct. at 1407 (emphasis added) (footnote omitted). Since Maier Brewing, however, Vaughan has come to stand for the proposition that attorney's fees can be awarded to a prevailing party when his opponent has engaged in bad-faith conduct during litigation. See Shimman v. International Union of Operating Eng'rs, 744 F.2d 1226, 1229-30 (6th Cir.1984) (tracing the citation history of Vaughan), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1215, 105 S.Ct. 1191, 84 L.Ed.2d 337 (1985). In fact, Vaughan is often cited as a foundational case for this "bad-faith" exception to the American Rule. See Summit Valley, 456 U.S. at 721, 102 S.Ct. at 2114-15; Hall, 412 U.S. at 5, 93 S.Ct. at 1946; Shimman, 744 F.2d at 1230.
Our knowledge that Vaughan is later cited as a foundation of the bad-faith exception to the American Rule, however, does not tell us whether this type of fee-shifting is compensatory or punitive in nature. In Hall v. Cole, the Court made the following observation:
412 U.S. at 5, 93 S.Ct. at 1946 (emphasis added) (citations omitted) (internal quotation omitted). Hall's reasoning was reaffirmed in the recent case of Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 111 S.Ct. 2123, 115 L.Ed.2d 27 (1991). Quoting Hall, the Chambers Court noted that "in the case of the bad-faith exception to the American Rule, `the underlying rationale of `fee-shifting' is, of course, punitive.'" Id. at 53, 111 S.Ct. at 2137.
A careful reading of Chambers, however, belies the view that awards made under the bad-faith exception to the American Rule are "punitive damages" in the sense that they punish the conduct giving rise to a plaintiff's claim. The Chambers Court distinguished between fees awarded pursuant to the bad-faith exception, which are based upon a federal court's inherent power to sanction parties for their litigation behavior, see id. at 47, 111 S.Ct. at 2134, and other "fee-shifting rules that embody a substantive
While the Chambers majority expressed no opinion on the question of whether a federal court has the inherent power to impose sanctions for conduct giving rise to an underlying claim, rather than for bad-faith conduct during the litigation process, see id. at 54 n. 16, 111 S.Ct. at 2137-38 n. 16, four justices were firmly of the view that bad-faith fee-shifting may not be used to sanction pre-litigation conduct. Justice Scalia noted that the American Rule "prevents a court (without statutory authorization) from engaging in what might be termed
Id. at 74, 111 S.Ct. at 2148 (Kennedy, J., dissenting).
The upshot of this extended discussion is that the bad-faith exception to the American rule, of which the Vaughan award is cited as an example, is not a punitive award in the "tort" sense of punishing the underlying conduct that gives rise to a plaintiff's claim. Tort-like punitive damages are awarded on the basis of the merits of a case, while bad-faith fee-shifting punishes abuses of the litigation process.
In the end, we need not definitely resolve whether Vaughan awarded attorney's fees as an item of compensatory or punitive damages. The award clearly has a "make-whole" compensatory aspect, see Maier Brewing, 386 U.S. at 718, 87 S.Ct. at 1407, and, based upon the facts of Vaughan, the award also has a punitive aspect to the extent that it punished an abuse of the litigation process. See, e.g., Chambers, 501 U.S. at 52-53, 111 S.Ct. at 2136-37; Shimman, 744 F.2d at 1230-32. According to the case law, however, the punitive aspect of the Vaughan award
Simply put, all we can confidently say about Vaughan is that it entitles an injured seaman to recover attorney's fees — perhaps as part of compensatory damages — when his employer willfully fails to pay maintenance and cure. We cannot definitively conclude, however, that Vaughan establishes any broader principle to support Holmes's rule that tort-like punitive damages, not limited to attorney's fees, are available in cases of willful nonpayment of maintenance and cure.
2. Dyer v. Merry Shipping Co.
In Dyer v. Merry Shipping Co., 650 F.2d 622, 623 (5th Cir. Unit B July 1981), the widow of a deceased seaman brought a wrongful death cause of action based upon the Jones Act and the unseaworthiness doctrine of the general maritime law. The primary issue on appeal was whether "punitive damages [could] be recovered in a seaman's action brought under either general maritime law or the Jones Act, or both." Id. We did not answer the Jones Act question, noting
Because Merry Shipping was an earlier panel opinion, we were bound by its holding in Holmes. Indeed, even though Merry Shipping dealt with punitive damages in an unseaworthiness context, the analysis, which we will soon discuss, was wholly applicable to maintenance and cure cases as well, and the court concluded with a broader declaration: "in this Circuit punitive damages may be recovered
In reaching our holding in Merry Shipping — that punitive damages are available in a wrongful death action brought by the representative of a seaman under the unseaworthiness doctrine of the general maritime law — we relied upon a key proposition: "It does not follow ... that if punitive damages are not allowed under the Jones Act, they should also not be allowed under general maritime law." Merry Shipping, 650 F.2d at 626. To understand why we now view this proposition as problematic, an examination of the Miles analysis is necessary.
Miles v. Apex Marine Corp.
In Miles, the parents of a seaman killed by a fellow crew member ultimately recovered under the Jones Act for the negligence of the ship's operators, charterer, and owner, as well as under the general maritime law on the basis that the ship was unseaworthy as a matter of law. See 498 U.S. at 21-22, 111 S.Ct. at 319-20. The unseaworthiness ruling presented two questions concerning the scope of damages under the general maritime law: 1) whether a nondependent parent could recover for loss of society in a general maritime wrongful death action, and 2) whether the general maritime law permits a survival action for the decedent's lost future earnings. See id. at 22-23, 111 S.Ct. at 320-21. A unanimous Court held that although the wrongful death of a seaman is actionable under the general maritime law, damages recoverable in such actions do not include loss of society. See id. at 33, 111 S.Ct. at 326. The Court also held that a general maritime survival action cannot include recovery for the decedent's lost future earnings. See id. at 36, 111 S.Ct. at 327-28.
The Miles Court began by thoroughly describing Moragne v. States Marine Lines, 398 U.S. 375, 90 S.Ct. 1772, 26 L.Ed.2d 339 (1970), in which the Court overruled its prior decision in The Harrisburg, 119 U.S. 199, 7 S.Ct. 140, 30 L.Ed. 358 (1886), to create a general maritime wrongful death cause of action applicable in all waters. The Moragne Court's decision was driven by two complementary rationales: consistency of the general maritime law with the policy implemented in the Jones Act and in the Death on the High Seas Act ("DOHSA") favoring wrongful death recovery, and "the constitutionally based principle that federal admiralty law should be `a system of law coextensive with, and operating uniformly in, the whole country.'" Moragne, 398 U.S. at 402, 90 S.Ct. at 1788 (quoting The Lottawanna, 88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 558, 575, 22 L.Ed. 654 (1874)).
The Miles Court noted that Moragne "exemplifies the fundamental principles that guide our decision in this case":
498 U.S. at 27, 111 S.Ct. at 323 (emphasis added). The Court noted that Moragne did not set forth the scope of recoverable damages under the maritime wrongful death action; thus, the Court sought guidance from comparable federal statutes.
Starting with DOHSA, the Court observed that the statute, by its explicit terms, prohibited the recovery of nonpecuniary damages. Miles, 498 U.S. at 31, 111 S.Ct. at 325; see Mobil Oil Corp. v. Higginbotham, 436 U.S. 618, 622-24, 98 S.Ct. 2010, 2013-14, 56 L.Ed.2d 581 (1978). Responding to the contention that admiralty courts have traditionally undertaken to supplement maritime statutes, the Miles Court stated:
Id. at 31, 111 S.Ct. at 325 (quoting Higginbotham, 436 U.S. at 625, 98 S.Ct. at 2015) (citation omitted).
Turning to the Jones Act, the Court observed that a well-established pecuniary limitation on damages existed under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA") at the time of the enactment of the Jones Act.
The Court then addressed the second question: "whether, in a general maritime action surviving the death of a seaman, the estate can recover decedent's lost future earnings." Id. The Court noted that recognizing a right to recover lost future income in a survival action would be a "distinctly minority view," but the Court stated that "[t]his fact alone would not necessarily deter us, if recovery of lost future income were more consistent with the general principles of maritime tort law." Id. at 35, 111 S.Ct. at 327. The Court cited "strong policy arguments for allowing such recovery," including economic incentives and solicitude to seamen, id. at 35-36, 111 S.Ct. at 327-28, but the Court's decision was driven by the analytical framework that it had previously used:
Id. at 36, 111 S.Ct. at 328 (citations omitted).
The analytical framework of Miles governs our approach to deciding damages issues in general maritime actions. In order to decide whether (and how) Miles applies to a case, a court must first evaluate
The factual setting in Miles nicely exemplifies this approach. Miles involved a seaman in a factual setting of wrongful death, and the wrongful death of a seaman is covered by the Jones Act. Thus, even though the plaintiff also sued for wrongful death under the general maritime law,
Taking the analysis one step further, it should be clear that actions under the general maritime law for
After Miles, it is clear that Merry Shipping has been effectively overruled. Its holding — that punitive damages are available in a wrongful death action brought by the representative of a seaman under the unseaworthiness doctrine of the general maritime law — is no longer good law in light of the Miles uniformity principle because, in the factual scenario of Merry Shipping, the Jones Act damages limitations control.
3. Robinson v. Pocahontas, Inc.
We turn to the last of our precedents that formed the foundation of our Holmes decision—Robinson v. Pocahontas, Inc., 477 F.2d 1048 (1st Cir.1973). In Robinson, the court upheld an award of punitive damages on a seaman's claim for maintenance and cure. See 477 F.2d at 1051-52. The court cited Vaughan for the proposition that the "Supreme Court held that a seaman could recover attorneys' fees as damages where a shipowner was callous, willful, or recalcitrant in withholding these [maintenance and cure] payments." Id. at 1051. Significantly, however, the court emphasized the language in the Vaughan dissent: "`[I]f 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.'" Id. (quoting Vaughan, 369 U.S. at 540 (Stewart, J., dissenting)).
To be sure, Pocahontas did uphold an award of punitive damages in a maintenance and cure context, but for at least two reasons, we believe that it is not a particularly strong precedent. First, the Pocahontas court's emphasis on the Vaughan dissent is troubling, especially because it seems that the court relied on the dissent to reach its conclusion that punitive damages — in excess of attorney's fees — may be awarded in maintenance and cure cases. As the Second Circuit noted in Kraljic v. Berman Enterprises, Inc.:
575 F.2d 412, 415-16 (2d Cir.1978) (emphasis added) (citation omitted).
Second, even if we overlook the Pocahontas court's apparent reliance on the Vaughan dissent, the decision was rendered seventeen years before Miles. In light of Miles, we cannot be sure that the First Circuit would reach the same result today as it did in Pocahontas. Cf. Horsley v. Mobil Oil Corp., 15 F.3d 200, 203 (1st Cir.1994) ("Miles mandates the conclusion that punitive damages are not available in an unseaworthiness action under general maritime law."). In short, Pocahontas was not rock-solid support to begin with, and because of Miles, we believe that its precedential weight has been further eroded.
4. The law of other circuits
As mentioned, our court and the First Circuit have upheld punitive damage awards in cases of willful nonpayment of maintenance and cure. In the Second Circuit's Kraljic opinion, the court also found that punitive damages were available in maintenance and cure cases, but the court relied on Vaughan to conclude that any "punitive" recovery is explicitly limited to attorney's fees. See Kraljic, 575 F.2d at 415-16.
In Hines v. J.A. LaPorte, Inc., 820 F.2d 1187 (11th Cir.1987), the Eleventh Circuit squarely confronted the issue of "whether a seaman may be awarded punitive damages in addition to reasonable attorney's fees for the arbitrary and willful withholding of maintenance and cure benefits." Id. at 1188. The court recognized that punitive damages in excess of attorney's fees were available in the First Circuit and in the Fifth Circuit, while the Second Circuit limited the award to attorney's fees. The court chose to rely on our Merry Shipping opinion, noting that "[f]ollowing the guidance of Merry Shipping ... it seems clear that even if exemplary in nature, attorney's fees, if fixed reasonably to cover only a proper fee award, would not foreclose the punitive purpose of a punitive damage award." Id. at 1189. Thus, the Hines court held that "both reasonable attorney's fees and punitive damages may be legally awarded in a proper case." Id. Of course, Hines's reliance on Merry Shipping is now analytically problematic because, as explained, Merry Shipping was effectively overruled by the later decision in Miles. Similarly, in Manuel v. United States, 50 F.3d 1253 (4th Cir.1995), the Fourth Circuit in dicta noted that "[c]ourts have long awarded punitive damages to seamen where maintenance and cure benefits have been arbitrarily and willfully denied." Id. at 1260. The court cited Holmes and Pocahontas for this proposition, however, and there was no mention of Miles.
The law in the Sixth Circuit is unclear. Dicta in Al-Zawkari v. American Steamship Co., 871 F.2d 585, 590 n. 8 (6th Cir.1989), implies that punitive damages could be available, but the decision was pre-Miles and it cited Holmes as support. The district courts in the Sixth Circuit have also come to different conclusions. Compare Hoeffling v. United States Steel, 792 F.Supp. 1029, 1030 (E.D.Mich.1991) ("[A] claim for punitive damages under the doctrine of maintenance and cure is recognizable in this circuit.") with Owens v. Conticarriers & Terminals, Inc., 591 F.Supp. 777, 792 (W.D.Tenn.1984) (holding that "because defendant's refusal to pay maintenance and cure was callous and willful, plaintiff is entitled to an award of punitive damages
Finally, a recent Ninth Circuit opinion explicitly addressed the post-Miles propriety of a punitive damages award for the failure to pay maintenance and cure. In Glynn v. Roy Al Boat Management Corp., 57 F.3d 1495 (9th Cir.1995), the Ninth Circuit stated that "[b]ecause Miles did not consider the availability of punitive damages, and was not faced with a claim for maintenance and cure that has no statutory analog, it does not directly control the question of whether punitive damages are available for the willful failure to pay maintenance." Id., at 1503. Instead, the court looked to Vaughan for guidance, and it determined that "we see no support for punitive damages in addition to
To sum up, the cases that Holmes relied upon cannot now support the result in Holmes. Vaughan awarded attorney's fees, and not punitive damages; Merry Shipping did not involve maintenance and cure, and it has been overruled by Miles; and Pocahontas is questionable in light of its pre-Miles analysis and its apparent reliance upon the Vaughan dissent.
C. The Effect of Miles on Maintenance and Cure Actions
Maritime argues that Guevara's recovery of punitive damages in his maintenance and cure action is barred by the dictates of Miles. Maritime's argument, of course, cannot rest on the specific holdings of Miles, as Miles did not involve a maintenance and cure claim. The logic and analytical framework of Miles, however, are clearly relevant, and they do support Maritime's argument.
Based on our interpretation of Miles, it should be clear that with maintenance and cure actions, we simply need to ask if "the factual setting of the case" or the "situation" is one covered by a statute like the Jones Act or DOHSA.
The analysis, however, is somewhat more complicated. A careful examination of the
Id. at 371-72, 53 S.Ct. at 174-75 (emphasis added) (citation omitted); see also id. ("If the wrong is of such a nature as to bring it by fair intendment within the category of a `personal injury' that has been caused by the `negligence' of the master, it is not put beyond the [Jones Act] because it may appropriately be placed in another category also."). Thus, as the Supreme Court explained by way of example:
Id. at 373-74, 53 S.Ct. at 175 (emphasis added). The Court therefore concluded:
Id. at 374-75, 53 S.Ct. at 175; see also Picou v. American Offshore Fleet, Inc., 576 F.2d 585, 587 (5th Cir.1978) (citing and discussing Cortes after noting that "[t]he defendant takes the position that since a [personal injury] recovery could be available to [the plaintiff] in a simple action for maintenance and cure, he could not allege a tort claim comprehending the same elements of injury.... This is simply not the law."); Gilmore & Black, supra, § 6-13, at 311 ("Such [personal injury] damages may be recovered either in an action for maintenance and cure or in an action for negligence under the Jones Act.") (citing Cortes).
Thus, as the Supreme Court has indicated, there are really two "types" of maintenance and cure actions. The tort-like type involves a personal injury; i.e., typically a worsening of the seaman's physical or mental health caused by the failure to provide maintenance or, more likely, cure. The contract-like type need not involve a personal injury (although it may); it need only involve the loss of a monetary outlay. Because the tort-like maintenance and cure action involves a personal injury, however, it overlaps with the personal injury coverage of the Jones Act.
Guevara seems to assert that our characterization of a Jones Act "overlap" is not accurate for maintenance and cure actions that give rise to punitive awards because "[i]t is the willful conduct of the vessel owner not negligence of the Captain or crew which gives rise to [an] award of punitive damages for failure to pay maintenance and cure." This argument, however, is misconceived, as the willful refusal to pay maintenance and cure is not a cause of action separate from the negligent failure to pay maintenance and cure. As the Fourth Circuit explained in Manuel:
50 F.3d at 1259-60. Thus, the denial of maintenance and cure benefits gives rise to only one cause of action — failure to pay maintenance and cure — and this one action is cognizable under both the Jones Act and the general maritime law, although the action under the Jones Act for the failure to pay maintenance and cure requires a personal injury as well. If willful conduct is demonstrated, it raises the possibility of a punitive award, but the cause of action for failure to pay maintenance and cure does not require or depend upon proof of willfulness.
Based on this rationale, it should be clear that proving even a willful denial of maintenance and cure cannot justify an award of punitive damages after Miles. Under Cortes, a tort-like action for the failure to pay maintenance and cure is cognizable under the Jones Act, but
Of course, our analysis is not yet complete, because in the instant case, Guevara brings a
Second, Guevara is asking us to affirm a punitive damages award that is
Third, a concern for uniformity
Fourth, when no element of personal injury is involved, these contract-like maintenance and cure actions are just that — primarily contract-oriented claims. Punitive damages, however, are generally unavailable for breach of contract, and to the limited extent that the obligation to pay maintenance and cure is contractual in nature, allowing punitive damages for a breach thereof is anomalous. See, e.g., Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 355, at 154-56 (1979); 11 Samuel Williston, A Treatise on the Law of Contracts § 1340, at 209-12 (3d ed. 1968); 5 Arthur Linton Corbin, Corbin on Contracts § 1077, at 437-39 (1964).
Our Holmes precedent for the availability of punitive damages in maintenance and cure cases is no longer well-founded. In particular, the advent of Miles brings about significant changes in the admiralty that we cannot ignore. We conclude that Vaughan and Miles still permit the recovery of attorney's fees in maintenance and cure cases as long as the proper showing of egregious fault is made. See, e.g., Morales, 829 F.2d at 1358. However, when we couple the weakened foundation of Holmes with our understanding of the Miles uniformity principle, we are persuaded that punitive damages should no longer be available in cases of willful nonpayment of maintenance and cure under the general maritime law. To this extent, therefore, Holmes is overruled. The district court's judgment is REVERSED insofar as it awarded punitive damages to Guevara for the willful failure to pay maintenance, but in all other respects, the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED. Costs shall be borne by Maritime.
Vaughan v. Atkinson, 206 F.Supp. 575, 576 (E.D.Va.1962).
Similarly, Maritime argues that the language used in Vaughan "clearly shows that the Supreme Court awarded compensatory damages, not punitive damages," but, contrary to Guevara's position, Maritime also contends that the issue of punitive damages
46 U.S.C. § 688(a).
This distinction will not affect a claim for punitive damages, however, because "[i]t has been the unanimous judgment of the courts
The Sixth Circuit's Kozar opinion quoted from a number of Supreme Court cases, including St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway Co. v. Craft, 237 U.S. 648, 35 S.Ct. 704, 59 L.Ed. 1160 (1915). In Craft, the Court indicated that an
We note, however, that even though admiralty cases have long suggested that punitive damages might be available, see, e.g., The Amiable Nancy, 16 U.S. (3 Wheat.) 546, 558, 4 L.Ed. 456 (1818) ("[I]f this were a suit against the original wrongdoers, it
Moreover, even if we were to accept Guevara's construction of the Pocahontas rationale, we would still be influenced by the maritime developments brought on by Miles.
46 U.S.C. § 688(b) (emphasis added). It is noteworthy that this denial of maintenance and cure to a class of seamen was added