This case arose out of injuries Floyd Badeaux ("Badeaux") allegedly sustained when he fell between a deck barge and the M/V LOCKMASTER ("the Vessel") while attempting to board the Vessel. Badeaux has an unlimited Master's license with numerous years of experience as a captain on the Mississippi River.
Badeaux brought claims against his employer, Magnolia Fleet, L.L.C. under the general maritime law. Badeaux alleges as a result of his fall, he suffered injuries to his back, neck, spine, ribs, arm and mind and seeks maintenance and cure and general damages in the amount of $4,000,000.
The parties consented to a bench trial before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The parties introduced depositions of doctors, Miranne and Cenac, and nurses, Zeringue and Simpson to establish the amount and extent of Magnolia's obligation to provide maintenance and cure.
Under the general maritime law, is Badeaux is entitled to receive maintenance and cure payments from Magnolia?
The Court based its holding off of the record and the medical testimony offered at trial.
The record shows that prior to Badeaux's employment with Magnolia he suffered two injuries to his back and neck requiring two surgeries in 1991 and 1994. In 1995, Dr. Miranne released Badeaux to work with no restrictions. Later that year, Badeaux ceased working as a captain and was employed outside of the maritime industry for approximately 12 years.
Badeaux returned to work in the maritime industry in 2007. He re-instated his Master's license and passed two physicals: one for the Coast Guard and one for Marquette Transportation Company ("Marquette"). In 2010, Badeaux was transferred to Magnolia; he testified that he sustained no injuries at Marquette and disclosed his previous two surgeries to Magnolia.
Immediately following the fall, Badeaux failed to reach any of his superiors at Magnolia. Later that day, his wife took him to a hospital where the treating physician diagnosed him with a fractured rib, forearm contusion and head abrasion; all described as "mild." Badeaux had full range of motion in his neck and no tenderness in his neck or back area.
The physician recommended Badeaux stay home from work for 6-7 weeks, however Badeaux returned to work that day; he took Tylenol and wrapped a brace around his chest. When Badeaux finally reached a superior at Magnolia, Daniel Weidner ("Weidner"), he asked to return to work and said he would "work through the situation" with his ribs; Weidner granted his request.
In the 2 weeks following his fall, Badeaux personally told no one of any pain, and there are no records in the Vessel log to indicate Badeaux experienced any pain.
After 2 weeks, Badeaux was fired from Magnolia for violating Coast Guard safety regulations. Thereafter, he reapplied for a position with Marquette and underwent a physical and a Physical Capacity Profile ("PCP") test. Nurse Zeringue performed the physical and noted no medical problems. Nurse Simpson administered the PCP test, wherein Badeaux exhibited no signs of pain and was able to do crunches, stretches, and lift 70lbs.
Badeaux was rehired by Marquette, but quit 34 days later; he did not tell Marquette his reason for leaving, but testified at trial that he felt physically weak, experienced significant pain and could not sleep.
Badeaux again saw Dr. Miranne who diagnosed him with a possible spinal cord compression. At trial, when asked to explain how Badeaux was able to pass the PCP test with this injury, Dr. Miranne testified that Badeaux could "fake" his way through injuries and conceal any signs of pain.
Because of his representations to his Magnolia superiors, Magnolia did not learn of the full extent of Badeaux's injuries until they were served with this complaint on August 11, 2010. Thereafter, Dr. Cenac performed an independent medical examination of Badeaux. Dr. Cenac testified that Badeaux's injuries were degenerative and nature and not likely caused by one traumatic event. Additionally, Dr. Cenac testified that Badeaux seemed to be overstating the extent of his pain.
Based on the foregoing information, the Court held that Badeaux was not entitled to maintenance and cure reasoning the great weight of the evidence indicated Badeaux did not sustain the injuries alleged from the incident, and that no previous injury was aggravated by or manifested itself during his employment with Magnolia.
Of note in the Court's decision was Badeaux's failure to report any pain to his superiors, his decision to voluntarily return to work, and his ability to pass the PCP test. The Court also took issue with Badeaux's credibility; Badeaux freely admitted he had concealed pain during the PCP test, and the record shows he violated Magnolia's injury-reporting policy.
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