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Punitive Damages in Maritime Accident.

On June 24, 2019, the Supreme Court delivered its opinion on The Dutra Group v. Batterton case. The case was concerning whether a Jones Act Seaman can recover punitive damages based on the alleged seaworthiness of a ship.

The Case

Chris Batterton was working on a ship owned by the Dutra group when while suddenly a hatch blew open and injured the respondent’s hand. Batterton sued The Dutra Group, seeking punitive and general damages as well as asserting that the vessel was not seaworthy. The case was being governed by Miles v. Apex Marine Corp.


Unfortunately, The Supreme Court held that a plaintiff may not recover punitive damages on a maritime claim. The court came to a 6-3 decision. The majority opinion was written by Justice Alito while the dissenting opinion was written by Justice Ginsburg. Justices Sotomayor and Breyer joined Justice Ginsburg. The Court came to this conclusion because the Jones Act was meant to give seamen the same rights as railway workers under FELA (Federal Employer Liability Act) in which railway workers may also not seek punitive damages.

What does This Mean for Me?

Does this mean that if you were hurt on a ship at sea, you cannot sue? No, you can. If you were injured due to the negligence of your employer or fellow employee, you are still entitled to general damages. Punitive damages only apply to a small number of cases in which the defendant was grossly negligent, beyond the point of normal negligence. If you have been injured out at sea, you may still be able to recover damages. Click here to learn more about maritime accidents.

The Law Giant, Personal Injury & Accident Lawyers: The Law Giant

At The Law Giant, Personal Injury & Accident Lawyers we understand how traumatic a case like this can be. If your loved one worked in the maritime industry and was killed on an offshore platform, vessel, or dockside, call us right away. We will thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding your relative’s death to determine which law applies. Once we understand your rights under the relevant maritime law, we will pursue compensation for you and your family.

You may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act, LHWCA, or the Death on the High Seas Act. The Law Giant, Personal Injury & Accident Lawyers we can evaluate your options and help seek compensation to cover your relative’s medical expenses, your lost financial support, the loss of your loved one’s companionship, your own emotional distress, and more. Contact our firm today at (866) 523-4167 to schedule a free, initial evaluation of your case.

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