In the case of Weeks Marine, Inc. v. Garza, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2012), the Texas Supreme Court ruled last week against a worker who was injured on the job. This time, the worker was a seaman. The Court ruled that he was not harmed by the employer’s failure to pay for his medical care.
Well established law recognizes seamen as “wards” of the court because of their highly dangerous work and dependence upon their employers for safety and medical care. When injured, a seaman is entitled to receive “maintenance and cure.” The former represents room and board; the latter is medical care. The shipping company is obligated to provide these basic necessities until the hurt seaman reaches “maximum cure.” When the employer fails to properly provide maintenance and cure, it is liable to the seaman for damages.
In Weeks, after the seaman was hurt, he was taken to the company doctor, who twice released him without restrictions. Since he had not recovered from the head injury he had sustained on the job, the seaman went to his own doctor. That doctor tried conservative care, then injections, and finally had to operate almost two years after the incident. The company failed to pay for all of that care.
After listening to the evidence, the jury determined that Weeks’ failure to provide its seaman with cure cause harm to him. Accordingly, it awarded him damages. But the Supreme Court looked at the record and said that “no evidence” showed any harm to the seaman for the delay in treatment. Therefore, it substituted its judgment for the jury who heard the facts of the case, reversed the damages award, and rendered a judgment on that issue that the company owed the seaman nothing.