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ICICLE SEAFOODS ORDERED TO PAY INJURED SEAMAN ATTORNEY FEES FOR MAINTENANCE AND CURE TRIAL

Icicle Seafoods has been ordered to pay an injured seaman $ 387,558 in an attorney fee award plus $40,500 in case expenses arising out of a November 16, 2009 jury trial in King County. Dana Clausen, a crewman working for Icicle Seafoods, was previously awarded 1.3 million dollars in punitive damages for Icicle's willful and wanton failure to pay maintenance and cure benefits.

The Court also issued a post trial order sanctioning Icicle Seafoods and its attorney for failure to properly provide Clausen with a complete copy of the claims adjuster's file. During trial, it was discovered that documents critical to Clausen's case had not been properly produced in discovery. Icicle has indicated they intend to appeal the over $2,000,000 in total damages and attorney fees that have now been awarded Clausen.

The Clausen verdict is one of the first punitive damage trials in the nation based upon the failure to properly pay maintenance and cure benefits. In Atlantic Soundings v. Townsend, the Supreme Court of the United States held that punitive damages could be awarded to injured seamen where an employer willfully and wantonly fails to pay maintenance and cure.

The 55 year old Clausen suffered neck and back injuries while working aboard Icicle's processing barge BERING STAR. He was attempting to lift a 122 pound piece of sheet metal by himself when he reinjured his back and also injured his neck. Clausen argued the accident was the result of lack of proper equipment and inadequate manning. Icicle claimed the accident was all Clausen's fault. Icicle contested and refused to pay for portions of Clausen's medical, care including a recommended surgery. A report from a doctor hired by Icicle that was not produced until the middle of trial indicated such surgery would not be unreasonable.

In addition to the 1.3 million dollars in punitive damages, the jury found Clausen entitled to $ 453,100 in economic and pain and suffering damages and divided the fault for those damages 56% to Icicle and 44% to Clausen. Important to note is that comparative fault cannot reduce damages for maintenance and cure, punitive damages, or attorney fees in a maintenance and cure claim.

Jim Jacobsen of Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC served as trial and co-counsel with Larry Curtis from Louisiana.

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