Ammar v. USA
DMC Category Rating: Developed
Case note contributed by Julie Ward, an attorney with the firm of Healy & Baillie, LLP, New York. Healy & Baillie are the International Contributors to the website for the United States of America
The plaintiff appealed, contending the lower court erred in finding him contributorily negligent and for denying him recovery for certain medical bills. The Defendant, represented by Healy & Baillie, LLP, appealed the maintenance award, calculated at a rate in excess of the CBA prescribed rate, and the lower court’s failure to discount plaintiff’s economic damages to present value.
As regards the proper rate for maintenance, the Second Circuit, persuaded by national labor policy considerations, upheld the CBA rate and noted, "by pooling their economic strength and acting through a labor organization freely chosen by the majority, the employees of an appropriate unit have the most effective means of bargaining for improvements in wages, hours and working conditions." Critically, the Second Circuit stated that because seamen have gained strength through their solidarity, "the need for judicial intervention to protect seamen has been substantially lessened." Indeed, because the CBA was a negotiated contract which by its very nature has give and take, the Second Circuit held that the maintenance provision could not be examined in isolation but had to be examined as a negotiated part of an overall benefits package available to all union members. Accordingly, because plaintiff did not allege, nor did the record indicate, that the collective bargaining process was unfair or that the maintenance provision was not a negotiated item, the Second Circuit did not sanction a unilateral rescission of the contracted rate by plaintiff.
Finally, the Second Circuit held that the district court should have discounted plaintiff’s award for future lost wages and medical expenses (also known as "cure") to present value. All such awards should account for the time value of money and failure to do so was error.
Accordingly, judgment was affirmed in part (contributory negligence) and set aside in part and remanded to the District Court for the judgment to be recalculated in accordance the findings of the appeal court.
These Case Notes have been prepared with care, but neither the Editor nor the International and other Contributors can guarantee that they are free from error, nor that they contain every pertinent point. Reliance should not therefore be placed upon them without independent verification. The Editor and the International and other Contributors disclaim all liability for any loss of whatsoever nature and howsoever arising as a result of others acting or refraining from acting in reliance on the contents of this website and the information to which it gives access. The Editor claims copyright in the content of the website.