United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff James Wilcox's
motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. No. 15). Having
thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the
relevant record, the Court hereby DENIES the motion for the
reasons explained herein.
was employed by Defendant Hamilton Construction LLC, as
captain of the tugboat Cosmic Wind. (Dkt. No. 17 at 1.) In
February 2016, Plaintiff was injured while jumping between
two boats owned and operated by Defendant. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2.)
Plaintiff became trapped between the boats, suffering crush
injuries to both of his legs. (Id.) As a result of
his injuries, Plaintiff was unable to work for a period of
approximately two months, and remains not yet fully cured.
(Dkt. Nos. 1 at 3, 17 at 2-3.) Since the time of
Plaintiff's injury, Defendant has made maintenance
payments to him at a rate of $56.00 per day. (Dkt. No. 17 at
moves partial summary judgment, arguing that he is entitled
to $103.00 per day in maintenance. (See Dkt. No.
15.) Plaintiff alleges that $56.00 per day is insufficient to
pay for his basic living expenses, which include food,
utilities, and $2, 300 mortgage payments for a house he
shares with his wife. (Id. at 1-2.) Defendant argues
that it should only be required to pay $56.00 per day, as
that is the reasonable cost of living for a seaman living
alone in Plaintiff's locality. (Dkt. No. 17 at 2-3.)
Summary Judgment Legal Standard
Court must 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). A dispute of fact is genuine if there is
sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find for the
nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of fact is material if
the fact “might affect the outcome of the suit under
the governing law.” Id. At the summary
judgment stage, evidence must be viewed in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, and all justifiable
inferences are to be drawn in the nonmovant's favor.
Id. at 255.
and cure are designed to provide a seaman with food and
lodging when he becomes sick or injured in the ship's
service; and it extends during the period when he is
incapacitated to do a seaman's work and continues until
he reaches maximum medical recovery.” Vaughan v.
Atkinson, 369 U.S. 527, 530 (1962). When there are
ambiguities or doubts as to the application of maintenance,
they are resolved in favor of the seaman. See Warren v.
United States, 340 U.S. 523, 530 (1951). Whether
Plaintiff is owed maintenance is not disputed here- only the
amount is contested. (See Dkt. Nos. 15, 17.) In
deciding the appropriate maintenance amount, the Court awards
the plaintiff his actual costs incurred, as long as those
costs do not exceed the reasonable costs incurred by a seaman
living alone in the plaintiff's locality. See Barnes
v. Sea Haw. Rafting, LLC, 889 F.3d 517, 539-40 (9th Cir.
2018). To determine the appropriate amount, the plaintiff
must first make a prima facie showing of his actual
living expenses that were necessary to incur during the
plaintiff's convalescence. Id. Once the
plaintiff makes that showing, the burden shifts to the
defendant to demonstrate that the plaintiff's actual
expenses were unreasonable, based upon the average cost of a
seaman living alone in the plaintiff's locality.
Plaintiff's Actual Expenses
alleges that his living expenses total $3, 100 per month,
requiring a daily maintenance payment of $103.00. (Dkt. No.
15 at 2.) Plaintiff lives in a house with his wife in the
Tahoe area of California. (Id. at 1.) His expenses
include utilities, food, and a $2, 300 mortgage.
(Id.) The inclusion of mortgage payments when
calculating actual living expenses is proper, because it is a
payment that Plaintiff is required to incur for continued
shelter. See Hall v. Noble Drilling (U.S.) Inc., 242
F.3d 582, 591 (5th Cir. 2001). Because Plaintiff's
evidentiary burden is “feather light, ” see
Barnes, 889 F.3d at 540, Plaintiff's statements and
evidence (see Dkt. No. 15) are sufficient to meet
his burden of proving his actual living expenses.
Reasonableness of Expenses
Plaintiff has met his prima facie burden, Defendant
has the burden of proving that Plaintiff's expenses are
unreasonable for a single seaman living alone in
Plaintiff's locality. Barnes, 889 F.3d at 541.
Defendant has presented evidence showing that the average
living expenses for a single seaman in the Tahoe area are
$56.00 per day. (Dkt. No. 17 at 7.) Plaintiff does not
dispute the accuracy of this amount. (See generally
Dkt. No. 23.) Instead, Plaintiff argues that Defendant makes
no showing that $103.00 per day is unreasonable for someone
in Plaintiff's living ...