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Punitive Damages allowed by Louisiana Federal Court in LHWCA Suit

Punitive Damages allowed by Louisiana Federal Court in LHWCA Suit

Will Punitive Damages Now be Available in Louisiana for Offshore Injuries?

In Callahan v. Gulf Logistics, L.L.C., No. 6:06-CV-561 2013 WL 5236888 (W.D. La. Sept. 16, 2013), the Western District of Louisiana recently permitted a plaintiff to pursue punitive damages in a vessel negligence lawsuit for injuries allegedly sustained outside territorial waters, pursuant to section 905(b) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”).  In so holding, the court noted that this issue was “somewhat unsettled.”

The court relied on recent U.S. Supreme Court opinions Miles v. Apex Marine Corp., 498 U.S. 19 (1990) and Atl. Sounding Co. v. Townsend, 557 U.S. 404 (2009).  In doing so, the Western District of Louisiana wrote, “It seems clear that punitive damages are available for actions under general maritime law unless Congress has expressly forbade such availability.  This court finds nothing in the language of [section] 905(b) which could be construed as so limiting the availability of punitive damages in a negligence action under the LHWCA.”

It is yet to be seen whether other courts will follow the Callahan court and permit longshoremen to seek punitive damages for 905(b) claims when injured in non-territorial waters.

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Click here for a PDF of the Fifth Circuit Court’s opinion in this case.

Allen & Gooch is providing this legal update for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. You should consult your own attorney concerning your particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have.