Maintenance is a daily stipend intended to cover the room-and-board expenses of a maritime worker injured in the service of a vessel, including seafood processing and deckhands on factory trawlers owned by American Seafoods Company. An injured worker is entitled to maintenance payments until the worker reaches maximum medical improvement from the injury. Based on contracts it drafted, American Seafoods has callously taken the position that injured workers are entitled to only $30.00 per day for maintenance payments while they recover from injuries sustained on its vessel, regardless of whether their actual room-and-board expenses exceed $30.00 per day. Other seafood processing companies have allowed for higher living maintenance rates based on an employee’s actual room-and-board expenses. American Seafoods’ position against its own workers has now been rejected in cases brought by our clients in both state and federal courts in Washington.
On November 28, 2016, King County Superior Court Judge Sue Parisien ordered American Seafoods to pay maintenance of $78.43 per day to an injured seafood processor represented by Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC while he recovered from partial knee replacement surgery due to an injury at work. In ruling against American Seafoods, Judge Parisien ruled: “American Seafoods has not cited any valid basis in fact or law allowing it to limit plaintiff’s maintenance rate to $30 per day, when plaintiff’s actual room and board expenses total $78.43 per day.” Order Granting Plaintiff’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees Incurred in Pursuing Unpaid Maintenance at 3 ll. 7-10. The Court further ruled: “American Seafoods’ ongoing denial of maintenance, which forced plaintiff to hire counsel to pursue benefits which he is plainly owed, is willful.” Id. The court went on to award the injured seafood processor attorneys’ fees for the cost of increasing his maintenance rate from $30.00 per day to $78.43 per day.
This is the second time this year that a court has rejected American Seafoods’ attempts to limit maintenance payments to $30 per day and provides hope to injured workers who struggle to meet their expenses while off work due to an injury on an American Seafoods vessel. Earlier this year in Sabow v. American Seafoods Company, USDC Western District of Washington Case No. C16-0111-JCC, the Honorable John C. Coughenour ruled that American Seafoods could not limit maintenance payments to $30 per day and must reimburse injured workers based on their reasonable actual room-and-board. American Seafoods has now appealed the issue to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
These cases litigated by our firm represent major victories for injured seafood processors and deckhands injured on American Seafoods factory trawlers. With these cases, injured processors and deckhands have access to increased living maintenance payments while they recover from injuries sustained in the service of American Seafoods vessels. If you have been injured on an American Seafoods vessel, you should be aware that your maintenance payments should not be limited to $30.00 per day if your actual room-and-board expenses exceed that rate. In addition to maintenance payments, you are entitled to select your own doctors and the company must pay for all medical expenses related to your injury, including the cost of travel to medical appointments. If you have questions about your right to maintenance payments after an injury on an American Seafoods vessel, contact our experienced maritime injury attorneys for a free consultation on your legal rights.