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Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc. v. Townsend

Docket No.: 08-214
Certiorari Granted: Nov 3 2008
Argued: March 2, 2009
Decided: June 25, 2009

PartyNames: Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc., et al. v. Edgar L. Townsend
Petitioner: Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc., et al.
Respondent: Edgar L. Townsend

Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc., et al.
v.
Edgar L. Townsend
Question Presented:

May a seaman recover punitive damages for the willful failure to pay maintenance and cure? The Eleventh Circuit's decision below holds in the affirmative, but conflicts with the Second, Third, Fifth and Ninth Circuits as well as two state courts of last resort, the reasoning of Miles v. Apex Marine Corp., 498 U.S. 19 (1990), and Vaughan v. Atkinson, 369 U.S. 527 (1962).

Question:

May a seaman seek punitive damages when his employer arbitrarily and willfully refuses to pay maintenance and cure for his injuries?

Holding: is affirmed and remanded
Vote: 5-4
Opinion By: Justice Clarence Thomas
Read ATLANTIC SOUNDING CO., INC. V. TOWNSEND opinion (PDF)
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