Massachusetts Court Explains Benefits Available to Boat Workers Injured at Work

Most Massachusetts employers have an obligation to provide employees who suffer injuries while working benefits. While in most cases, the benefits owed are pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act, in some instances, other rules apply. For example, pursuant to federal common law, boat owners have an obligation to provide care for their employees who fall ill while working on their vessels. A Massachusetts court recently examined the “duty of cure” imposed on boat owners in a case in which the plaintiff argued he was not adequately paid for his medical care. If you were hurt while working, you might be owed benefits, and it is in your best interest to speak to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer about your potential claims.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff contracted an infection while he was working on the defendant’s boat. He was hospitalized and received inpatient care for six months. He sought payment for his medical expenses from the defendant pursuant to the federal common law obligation in admiralty law referred to as the duty of cure. The defendant paid the plaintiff’s expenses in part, but failed to compensate him for the entire cost of his care. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that it breached its duty of cure. The court entered judgment for the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.

Benefits Available to Boat Workers Injured While Working Under Admiralty Law

The trial court ruling was largely reversed on appeal. The court explained that it was a general principle of admiralty law, that if a person working on a boat falls ill or is injured, the vessel owners are liable for the worker’s maintenance and cure. The court noted that although maintenance and cure are often referred to as a single duty, there were two distinct aspects.

Maintenance refers to the cost of lodging and food, while cure encompasses necessary healthcare expenses, including the period of the worker’s recovery from an illness or injury. The duty of care will end when the worker is cured as much as possible.

In the subject case, the trial court found that as there was no evidence that the plaintiff was not cured, the defendant could terminate its duty of care. The court ultimately found that, contrary to the trial court’s ruling, the defendant did breach the duty owed by failing to pay the plaintiff’s full medical costs. Thus, it reversed the trial court ruling.

Talk to a Trusted Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

People who are hurt at work are often owed benefits from their employer, and if they are denied such benefits, they may be able to seek justice in the Massachusetts courts. If you were injured while working, it is smart to talk to an attorney about your options.  James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a trusted Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer with the skills and resources needed to help you seek the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case. You can reach Mr. Meehan by calling 508-822-6600 or by using the form online to set up a conference.