43 682 Vella v. Ford Motor Company 8212 1994 18 8212 19, 1975, No. 73

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRENNAN
Citation421 U.S. 1,43 L.Ed.2d 682,95 S.Ct. 1381
Parties. 43 L.Ed.2d 682 Julian VELLA, Petitioner, v. FORD MOTOR COMPANY. —1994. Argued Feb. 18—19, 1975
Docket NumberNo. 73
Decision Date15 April 1975

421 U.S. 1
95 S.Ct. 1381.
43 L.Ed.2d 682
Julian VELLA, Petitioner,

v.

FORD MOTOR COMPANY.

No. 73—1994.
Argued Feb. 18—19, 1975.
Decided April 15, 1975.

Syllabus

A shipowner's duty to furnish an injured seaman maintenance and cure continues from the date the seaman leaves the ship to the date when a medical diagnosis is made that his injury was permanent immediately after his accident and therefore incurable. Pp. 3-6.

6th Cir., 495 F.2d 1374, reversed and remanded.

Leonard C. Jaques, Detroit, Mich., for petitioner.

John A. Mundell, Jr., Detroit, Mich., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari in this case limited to the question whether a shipowner's duty to furnish an injured seaman maintenance and cure continues from the date

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the seaman leaves the ship to the date when a medical diagnosis is made that the seaman's injury was permanent immediately after his accident and therefore incurable.1 419 U.S. 894, 95 S.Ct. 171, 42 L.Ed.2d 138 (1974).

Petitioner was a seaman aboard respondent's Great Lakes vessel, S.S. Robert S. McNamara. He was discharged and left the ship on June 29, 1968. Thereafter he filed this suit in the District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, based on a claim that on April 4, 1968, while replacing a lower engineroom deck plate, he slipped and fell on the oily floor plate causing his head to suffer a severe blow when it struck an electrical box. The complaint included a count, among others,2 for maintenance and cure. The medical testimony at the trial was that petitioner suffered from a vestibular disorder defined as damage to the balancing mechanism of the inner ear. The testimony of respondent's medical witness, Dr. Heil, an otolaryngologist, supplied the only medical diagnosis as to the time when the disorder became permanent and not susceptible of curative treatment. Dr. Heil testified on April 27, 1972, that he had recently examined petitioner. He conceded that

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a severe blow to the head, such as alleged by petitioner, could have caused the disorder. He said, however, that the disorder is not a condition that can be cured by treatment.3 The jury awarded petitioner maintenance and cure in the amount of $5,848. Respondent moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the ground that the award was not within the permissible scope of maintenance and cure. The District Court denied the motion and stated: 'While it is true that maintenance and cure is not available for a sickness declared to be permanent, it is also true that maintenance and cure continues until such time as the incapacity is declared to be permanent.' App. 20a. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed without a published opinion, 495 F.2d 1374 (1974). The Court of Appeals held that 'once the seaman reaches 'maximum medical recovery,' the shipowner's obligation to provide maintenance and cure ceases,' App. 28a, and since '(t)he record in this case does not permit an inference other than that (petitioner's) condition was permanent immediately after the accident,' id., at 29a, the District Court's holding impermissibly extended the shipowner's obligation.

We disagree with the Court of Appeals and therefore reverse. The shipowner's ancient duty to provide maintenance and cure for the seaman who becomes ill or is injured while in the service of the ship derives from the 'unique hazards (which) attend the work of seamen,' and fosters the 'combined object of encouraging marine com-

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merce and assuring the well-being of seamen.' Aguilar v. Standard Oil Co., 318 U.S. 724, 727, 63 S.Ct. 930, 932, 87 L.Ed. 1107 (1943). To further that 'combined object' we have held that the duty arises irrespective of the absence of shipowner negligence and indeed irrespective of whether the illness or injury is suffered in the course of the seaman's employment. Calmar S.S. Corp. v. Taylor, 303 U.S. 525, 527, 58 S.Ct. 651, 652, 82 L.Ed. 993 (1938). And, '(s)o broad is the shipowner's obligation . . . negligence or acts short of culpable misconduct on the seaman's part will not relieve (the shipowner) of the responsibility.' Aguilar v. Standard Oil Co., supra, at 730—731, 63 S.Ct., at 934. Thus, the breadth...

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152 practice notes
  • Barnes v. Andover Co., L.P., No. 86-1508
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 25 avril 1990
    ...of maximum cure, that is until the seaman is cured or his condition is diagnosed as permanent and incurable. See Vella v. Ford Motor Co., 421 U.S. 1, 5, 95 S.Ct. 1381, 1384, 43 L.Ed.2d 682 (1975); Vaughan, 369 U.S. at 531, 82 S.Ct. at 1000; Neville v. American Barge Line Co., 276 F.2d 117, ......
  • Skowronek v. American Steamship Co., No. 06-1918.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 12 octobre 2007
    ...duty to pay maintenance continues until either the seaman has recovered or his condition is declared permanent. Vella v. Ford Motor Co., 421 U.S. 1, 5, 95 S.Ct. 1381, 43 L.Ed.2d 682 (1975). The duty exists irrespective of both whether the shipowner was negligent and whether the illness or i......
  • Dean v. Fishing Co. of Alaska, Inc., No. 87407–7.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • 9 mai 2013
    ...and cure to a seaman who [177 Wash.2d 406]“becomes ill or is injured while in the service of the ship.” Vella v. Ford Motor Co., 421 U.S. 1, 3, 95 S.Ct. 1381, 43 L.Ed.2d 682 (1975); Clausen v. Icicle Seafoods, Inc., 174 Wash.2d 70, 76, 272 P.3d 827 (2012). “Maintenance” is a per diem living......
  • Meaux v. Cooper Consol., LLC, CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-10628
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • 6 août 2020
    ...maximum medical improvement, meaning when his condition is cured or will not improve with further treatment. Vella v. Ford Motor Co. , 421 U.S. 1, 5, 95 S.Ct. 1381, 43 L.Ed.2d 682 (1975) ; McBride v. Estis Well Serv., L.L.C. , 853 F.3d 777, 783 (5th Cir. 2017). The amount and duration of re......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
153 cases
  • Barnes v. Andover Co., L.P., No. 86-1508
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 25 avril 1990
    ...of maximum cure, that is until the seaman is cured or his condition is diagnosed as permanent and incurable. See Vella v. Ford Motor Co., 421 U.S. 1, 5, 95 S.Ct. 1381, 1384, 43 L.Ed.2d 682 (1975); Vaughan, 369 U.S. at 531, 82 S.Ct. at 1000; Neville v. American Barge Line Co., 276 F.2d 117, ......
  • Dean v. Fishing Co. of Alaska, Inc., No. 87407–7.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • 9 mai 2013
    ...and cure to a seaman who [177 Wash.2d 406]“becomes ill or is injured while in the service of the ship.” Vella v. Ford Motor Co., 421 U.S. 1, 3, 95 S.Ct. 1381, 43 L.Ed.2d 682 (1975); Clausen v. Icicle Seafoods, Inc., 174 Wash.2d 70, 76, 272 P.3d 827 (2012). “Maintenance” is a per diem living......
  • Meaux v. Cooper Consol., LLC, CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-10628
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
    • 6 août 2020
    ...maximum medical improvement, meaning when his condition is cured or will not improve with further treatment. Vella v. Ford Motor Co. , 421 U.S. 1, 5, 95 S.Ct. 1381, 43 L.Ed.2d 682 (1975) ; McBride v. Estis Well Serv., L.L.C. , 853 F.3d 777, 783 (5th Cir. 2017). The amount and duration of re......
  • Barnes v. Sea Haw. Rafting, LLC, No. 16-15023
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 28 mars 2018
    ..."easy and ready," with "few exceptions or conditions to stir contentions, cause delays, and invite litigations." Vella v. Ford Motor Co. , 421 U.S. 1, 4, 95 S.Ct. 1381, 43 L.Ed.2d 682 (1975) (quoting Farrell , 336 U.S. at 516, 69 S.Ct. 707 ). Given these concerns, courts sometimes decline t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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