In a slip opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated a District Court’s injunction ordering the payment of maintenance and cure. In Collick, the claimant alleged that he was injured while working in conjunction with a crane barge. The claimant slipped and fell, sustaining a severe leg fracture requiring multiple surgeries. Physicians opined that the claimant, who was in constant pain, would never again perform such physically demanding work.
Initially, the claimant’s employer began paying benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Then, once the claimant filed the instant suit wherein he demanded maintenance and cure, the employer discontinued Longshore benefits. By filing his suit, the claimant raised a question as to whether he was entitled to Longshore benefits as he may not be a longshoreman. The claimant then sought a preliminary injunction forcing the employer to pay him maintenance and cure, which the District Court granted.
The Third Circuit vacated the District Court’s order, concluding that the claimant failed to meet the burden required to qualify for a mandatory preliminary injunction. To secure a preliminary injunction, the mover must show: (1) a reasonable probability of eventual success in the litigation, and (2) that it will be irreparably injured pendente lite if relief is not granted to prevent a change in the status quo. Also, if relevant, the District Court “should take into account, when they are relevant, (3) the possibility of harm to other interested persons from the grant or denial of the injunction, and (4) the public interest.”
Here, the claimant could not satisfy the first prong of the preliminary injunction test because he could not show a reasonable probability of success. To secure maintenance and cure, a claimant must prove that he is a seaman, and that he sustained an injury in the employ of a vessel. The claimant’s only factual offerings in Collick were his own declarations, whereas the employer provided production reports, daily time sheets, and a supervisor’s declaration that the claimant’s job duties indicated that he was not a seaman. The Third Circuit concluded that the District Court erred in finding the claimant could demonstrate “eventual success” because of “the factually intensive nature of the doctrine of maintenance and cure and the abundance of contradictory facts on both sides of the record…”
(Note: I originally published this post on Navigable Waters: A Maritime, Longshore and Defense Base Act Blog.)