United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
JEFFREY D. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
F/V LILLI ANN, LLC, et al., Defendants. IN ADMIRALTY
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT
S. Lasnik United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on defendants' motion for
partial summary judgment. Dkt. # 13. In this case, plaintiff
Jeffrey D. Robinson, a seaman, claims that his employer and
the owner of the fishing vessel on which he worked breached
their maritime duty to provide maintenance and cure by
failing to take all reasonable steps to ensure that plaintiff
received proper care and treatment for his severe sleep
apnea. Defendants move for partial summary judgment on the
standard of care applicable to a vessel owner's duty to
provide maintenance and cure for a condition unrelated to
employment on the vessel. Defendants further seek summary
judgment as to whether, on the facts of this case, there was
a breach of that duty. Dkt. # 13 at 1-2. Plaintiff opposes
summary judgment. Dkt. # 15. Having reviewed the parties'
briefs, declarations, exhibits, and the remainder of the
record, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part
defendants' motion for the reasons that follow.
case arises out of a stroke that plaintiff suffered in July
2012 while employed by defendant Coastal Villages Longline,
LLC, as a crew member of the F/V Lilli Ann, a vessel owned
and operated by defendant F/V Lilli Ann, LLC.
early 2012, Bob Wilson, the captain of the F/V Lilli Ann,
advised plaintiff to see a doctor about his serious snoring
problem. Dkt. # 16-1 at 4. Captain Wilson was aware that
snoring could be associated with severe health problems. Dkt.
# 16-2 at 8-9. On several occasions prior to this
conversation, Captain Wilson and plaintiff had discussed
plaintiff's snoring, and Captain Wilson had suggested
that plaintiff consider getting a Continuous Positive Airway
Pressure (“CPAP”) machine to help with the
problem. Dkt. # 16-2 at 4-6; Dkt. # 14-2 at 12. Plaintiff
tried a CPAP but had stopped using it because it did not fit
well. Dkt. # 16-1 at 5-6; Dkt. # 16-2 at 5-7.
Captain Wilson suggested he see a doctor, plaintiff saw Dr.
Nilesh Shah, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, in Seattle
on May 2, 2012. Dkt. # 14-3; Dkt. # 16-3 at 4, 6. During this
visit, Dr. Shah observed that plaintiff's tonsils were
extremely enlarged and suspected that plaintiff was suffering
from sleep apnea. Dkt. # 16-3 at 6. Dr. Shah did not provide
an affirmative diagnosis of sleep apnea, but rather
recommended that plaintiff undergo a sleep study to determine
the severity of the problem. Dkt. # 16-3 at 6-7. Dr. Shah
informed plaintiff that if the sleep study showed that
plaintiff was indeed suffering from sleep apnea, he would
recommend treatment in the form of a tonsillectomy and
surgery to repair plaintiff's deviated septum. Dkt. #
16-3 at 8; Dkt. # 14-2 at 3.
9, 2012, plaintiff self-administered a home sleep study. Dkt.
# 14-4 at 5. The results suggested significant sleep apnea
but were inconclusive given the short duration of the study.
Dkt. # 16-3 at 14. Dr. Shah's office informed plaintiff
that he would have to undergo a second sleep study. Dkt. #
14-4 at 6. On June 4, 2012, plaintiff self-administered a
second sleep study. Dkt. # 14-4 at 5. Over the next few days,
Dr. Shah's office attempted to contact plaintiff to
discuss the results of the second sleep study,  but plaintiff did
not receive these communications and did not contact Dr.
Shah's office about the results of the sleep study. Dkt.
# 14-4 at 4; Dkt. # 14-2 at 2, 3.
5, 2012, plaintiff noted on his start-of-season health
questionnaire that he needed surgery on his tonsils and
palate. Dkt. # 14-8 at 1. Plaintiff also testified that he
told Captain Wilson that he would need to take off the next
two fishing trips in order to have the tonsillectomy and
palate surgery. Dkt. # 16-1 at 9-10, 18-19; Dkt. # 17, ¶
4. According to plaintiff, Captain Wilson told plaintiff that
he was needed on the next two fishing trips because no other
crew member was available to attend training on new
technology that the vessel had recently installed, and that
plaintiff would have to postpone his surgery. Dkt. # 16-1 at
9-10, 18-19; Dkt. # 17, ¶ 4. Captain Wilson denies
telling plaintiff to postpone his surgery. Dkt. # 20-3 at 2.
12, 2012, plaintiff left Seattle for Alaska on the F/V Lilli
Ann. From then until July 4, 2012, plaintiff felt well. Dkt.
# 16-1 at 13. On July 4, however, plaintiff began to feel
unwell. At the time, the F/V Lilli Ann was traveling to Dutch
Harbor, Alaska, to drop off another ill crew member. Dkt. #
14-2 at 6. When the F/V Lilli Ann arrived in Dutch Harbor on
July 5, 2012, crew members brought plaintiff to the Iliuliuk
Health Clinic. Dkt. # 14-6 at 7. Prior to his arrival at the
clinic, plaintiff began to vomit, had trouble walking, and
complained of a tingling sensation on the right side of his
face. Dkt. # 14-2 at 7-8. While at the clinic, plaintiff
claimed that he could not feel cold sensations on the right
side of his body, and the right side of his face began to
droop. Dkt. # 14-2 at 8. On the evening of July 5, plaintiff
was transported via air ambulance to a hospital in Anchorage,
where he was diagnosed with a stroke. Dkt. # 14-2 at 9; Dkt.
# 14-7 at 1, 4-5.
6, 2015, plaintiff sued Coastal Villages Longline, LLC, and
its parent company; F/V Lilli Ann, LLC; and the F/V Lilli
Ann, in rem. Dkt. # 1. He filed an amended complaint on
October 25, 2015. Dkt. # 4. Plaintiff claims that defendants
breached the maritime duty to provide maintenance and cure by
failing to take all reasonable steps to ensure that plaintiff
received proper care and timely treatment for his sleep
apnea. Defendants move for summary judgment, arguing that
their maritime duty of maintenance and cure did not extend to
requiring plaintiff to get medical care for a medical
condition unrelated to his employment - and that even if it
did, they did not breach that duty. Dkt. # 13.
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact which would preclude the entry of
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving
party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions
of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories,
admissions, and affidavits, if any, that demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the
moving party has satisfied its burden, it is entitled to
summary judgment if the nonmoving party fails to designate
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of
material fact for trial. Id. at 324. An issue is
genuine only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on
which a reasonable fact finder could find for the nonmoving
party. In re Barboza, 545 F.3d 702, 707 (9th Cir.
2008). The Court will view the evidence in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable
inferences in that party's favor. Mueller v.
Auker, 576 F.3d 979, 991 (9th Cir. 2009).
Defendants' Maritime Duty to Provide ...