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Coastal Villages Pollock, LLC v. Naufahu

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

March 19, 2014

COASTAL VILLAGES POLLOCK, LLC, Petitioner,
v.
AHOKAYA NAUFAHU, Respondent. AMERICAN SEAFOODS COMPANY LLC., Plaintiff,
v.
AHOKAYA NAUFAHU, Defendant.

ORDER

JOHN C. COUGHENOUR, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant and Respondent Ahokaya Naufahu's motion for maintenance and cure (Case No. C13-1234, Dkt. No. 17; Case No. C13-1235, Dkt. No. 18), Petitioner Coastal Villages Pollock's motion for summary judgment (Case No. C13-1234, Dkt. No. 23), and Plaintiff American Seafoods' motion for leave to supplement the record (Case No. C13-1235, Dkt. No. 29). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and rules on the motions as follows. Mr. Naufahu's motion for pre-trial maintenance and cure is DENIED, Plaintiff American Seafoods' unopposed motion to supplement the record is GRANTED, and Petitioner Coastal Villages' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

Mr. Naufahu was first hired by American Seafoods in 1997. (Case No. C13-1235, Dkt. No. 19 at ¶ 2.) Mr. Naufahu worked for American Seafoods aboard the F/V Northern Hawk each season from 2002 until 2010, when the vessel was sold to Coastal Villages. Id. Mr. Naufahu continued working on the Northern Hawk under Coastal Villages' management from 2011 until November 2012. (Case No. C13-1234, Dkt. No. 1 at ¶¶ 2-3.) Mr. Naufahu has an extensive history of smoking tobacco and smoked between one and one-and-a-half packs of cigarettes a day for twenty years. (Case No. C13-1234, Dkt. No 26, Ex. 6 at 2.) Mr. Naufahu has a long history[1] of respiratory issues and was eventually diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis[2] and emphysema in May 2009 after a coughing fit that caused him to pass out sent him to the emergency room. (Case No. C13-1235, Dkt. No. 26, Ex. 1 at 3.)

Mr. Naufahu was required to fill out a "Health and History Assessment" form as a condition of his employment when he returned to work for American Seafoods in January of 2010. (Case No. C13-1235, Dkt. No. 25 at ¶ 4.) Mr. Naufahu disclosed the single coughing episode that sent him to the ER, but checked "no" to the following items: fainting spells, emphysema, cough lasting more than two weeks, bloody sputum, breathing problems, smoking, and shortness of breath. (Case No. C13-1235, Dkt. No. 25, Ex. 1 at 2, 5.)

When Mr. Naufahu began work for Coastal Villages after the sale of the Northern Hawk, he was again required to fill out a "Health Questionnaire" in January 2011. (Case No. C13-1234, Dkt. No. 25, Ex. 1 at 40-42.) In these forms, Mr. Naufahu disclosed that he had had a cough lasting longer than two weeks, but checked "no" to fainting spells, emphysema, and bloody cough. He also failed to disclose his lung issues in the space indicated for "medical problems not noted above" and "any illnesses or injuries other than those already listed." ( Id. ) Mr. Naufahu's respiratory problems continued to worsen, and by August of 2011, he experienced shortness of breath going up a flight of stairs, and his cough was an issue daily. (Case No. C13-1235, Dkt. No. 26, Ex. 7 at 1.)

Mr. Naufahu filled out another copy of the Health Questionnaire before beginning the 2012 fishing season. Mr. Naufahu again failed to disclose any of his respiratory issues.[3] (Case No.C13-1234, Dkt. No. 25, Ex. 1 at 43-45.) In March of 2012, Mr. Naufahu experienced chest pain while working on board the Northern Hawk. (Case No.C13-1234, Dkt. No 1 at ¶ 12; Dkt. No. 16 at ¶ 3.) Mr. Naufahu was airlifted to a hospital where five stents were placed in his heart, and Coastal Villages paid all maintenance, cure, and unearned wages for this event. ( Id. ) This heart attack did not affect Mr. Naufahu's chronic pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema. (Case No. C13-1234, Dkt. No. 29, Ex. F at 14-15.)

Mr. Naufahu's employment with Coastal Villages ended on November 23, 2012. (Case No.C13-1234, Dkt. No 1 at ¶ 3; Dkt. No. 16 at ¶ 1.) On December 3, 2012, Mr. Naufahu went to the emergency room complaining of shortness of breath and cough. (Case No.C13-1235, Dkt. No. 26, Ex. 10 at 1.) Mr. Naufahu informed the emergency room staff that he had been coughing for "the last 3 weeks, " had at times coughed up blood, and once again coughed so hard he passed out. ( Id. ) Mr. Naufahu was diagnosed with pneumonia and treated in the hospital until December 5, 2012. (Case No. C13-1234, Dkt. No. 25, Ex. 2 at 26-28.)

Mr. Naufahu's pulmonary condition has continued to worsen since leaving Coastal Villages' employ and he now requires oxygen through most of the day. (Case No. C13-1235, Dkt. No. 18, Ex. 2.) He is also undergoing evaluation for a potential lung transplant should his condition deteriorate, though it is unclear when or if Mr. Naufahu would be a viable candidate for such a procedure due to concerns about his weight and heart. (Case No. C13-1234, Dkt. No. 25, Ex. 2 at 22-23.)

Coastal Villages and American Seafoods filed separate cases in which each seeks a declaratory judgment that they have no duty to provide maintenance and cure to Mr. Naufahu for his pulmonary conditions or any other conditions for which he is now requesting payment. (Case No. C13-1234, Dkt. No. 1 (Coastal Villages); Case No. C13-1235, Dkt. No. 1 (American Seafoods).) The Court previously consolidated these matters for discovery purposes. Mr. Naufahu has now filed a motion to expedite the trial in both cases and asks the Court to compel American Seafoods to provide pre-trial maintenance and cure. (Case No. C13-1234, Dkt. No. 17; Case No. C13-1235, Dkt. No. 18.) Coastal Villages moves for summary judgment on the ground that Mr. Naufahu is not entitled to maintenance and cure, and that even if he is so entitled, his willful concealment of his pulmonary conditions forfeits that right. (Case No. C13-1234, Dkt. No. 23.) American Seafoods requests that the Court treat Mr. Naufahu's motion for pre-trial maintenance and cure as a summary judgment motion and find that Mr. Naufahu has not met his burden. (Case No. C13-1235, Dkt. No. 23.)

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standards and Governing Law

Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). In making such a determination, the Court must view the facts and inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-50 (1986). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party "must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case, and a dispute about a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49. Ultimately, summary judgment is ...


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