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Court Finds Fisherman To Be Entitled To Attorney Fees For Failure to Promptly Pay Maintenance and Cure

A King County Judge has ordered B&N Fisheries to reinstate an injured crewman's maintenance and cure benefits. The Court further ordered the company to authorize surgery for the crewman's elbow. The Court ordered B&N Fisheries to pay reasonable attorney fees in connection with the motion. B&N Fisheries moved to block the attorney fee award in a motion for reconsideration, arguing that only a jury can determine the amount of attorney fees due in a case involving the wrongful withholding of maintenance and cure. The Court denied the motion for reconsideration and again affirmed the crewman's right to attorney fees. The case is Camacho v. B&N Fisheries Company, Washington State Superior Court for King County Cause No. 10-2-10495.

The award of punitive damages and attorney fees in cases involving willful and wanton withholding of maintenance and cure was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States in Atlantic Sounding v. Townsend. Shortly following that decision in November of 2010, a Washington State King County jury awarded nearly $1.3 million in punitive damages against Icicle Seafoods, finding the company had wrongfully deprived a seaman of his maintenance and cure benefits. The issue of whether or not the amount of attorney fees must be decided by a jury is now pending appeal in the Washington State Appellate Court in Clausen v. Icicle Seafoods.

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