In rare cases, a maritime worker may have his rights to maintenance and cure denied because of undesirable behavior like alcohol or drug use. In a classic example of such a case, a worker who filed a lawsuit against Omega Protein Inc. has had his claim rejected.
The man was a worker on board the company’s fishing vessel, and sustained injuries after he passed out and fell on the vessel. The man filed a Jones Act claim for negligence, unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure. Omega denied liability, claiming that the worker’s injuries were caused as a result of his own negligence. The court dismissed the Jones Act and unseaworthiness claims.
As for the maintenance and cure claim, the court found that following the accident, the worker had tested positive for cocaine. These cocaine levels were about 288 ng/l indicating that the worker had used cocaine between 24 and 48 hours before the accident. The levels were almost twice as high as those normally required to confirm cocaine use. The man denied a cocaine habit, and denied ever taking the drug before the accident. However, the court had enough evidence to show otherwise.
The court found that the worker had taken cocaine before the fall, and that was enough reason for the court to believe that his accident had been a result of the cocaine use. His claim for maintenance and cure was denied.
The maritime attorneys at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers help injured maritime workers recover maintenance and cure payments after an injury.